IT WAS the smother that epitomised Collingwood's bravery.
Leading by a solitary point with mere seconds left on the clock, the Magpies could feel their season slipping away on Saturday night. The Eagles were surging forward in a rush of momentum that had whipped the Optus Stadium crowd into a frenzy. This would surely be it for the visitors.
EAGLES v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
West Coast's Tom Cole received Tim Kelly's handball, the ground opening up for him. But with the game and his team's season on the line, Collingwood midfielder Taylor Adams appeared.
A first-time AFL All-Australian a fortnight ago, Adams threw his body at the ball, blocking its path into the forward 50. Just like that, Collingwood's semi-final date with Geelong – and its entire season – was saved.
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If the act itself was courage personified, the 80 minutes of scintillating, stylish and fearless Collingwood footy that had preceded it was just as good. There had been moments throughout the club's 12.4 (76) to 11.9 (75) win over West Coast where it had appeared that all hope was lost, but it never was.
Mini-surges from the Eagles throughout the match were consistently snuffed out, as Adams (24 disposals, eight tackles, one goal) and Brody Mihocek (10 disposals, three goals) led the Magpies to a famous win.
A shattered West Coast watched the scenes of jubilant Collingwood celebrations at the final siren in disbelief. The Magpies had prevailed after the Eagles had done all they could to not just knock the door in front of them down, but kick it clean off its hinges.
Nic Naitanui (17 disposals, 24 hitouts) had been influential in helping the hosts into the ascendancy on a number of occasions throughout the second half, while Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling (three goals each) had been potent in attack.
And yet, the signs of a Collingwood side up for the fight had been evident from the game's early stages. In fact, there was a period where West Coast might have been feeling the same overwhelming Mason Cox-induced fear that gripped Richmond back in the 2018 preliminary final.
In a spellbinding five-minute stretch midway through the first quarter, the big American had three kicks, three contested marks and three goals to help Collingwood create an early 16-point lead.
Cox's dominance set the scene for a remarkable opening to the game as Tim Kelly, blanketed by the tag of Levi Greenwood, was kept to just one disposal at quarter-time. It was still one more than his captain, Luke Shuey, and fellow gun midfielder Dom Sheed, both of whom were held without a touch to the first change.
But where Collingwood's midfield was dominant to start the match, it quickly became overrun as West Coast's star power muscled its way into the contest. The aforementioned names began finding it more, subsequently getting Kennedy and Darling into the game, as the deficit was whittled back to just three points at the main break.
The Eagles claimed the lead soon after the restart of the second half, creating a manic roar from the vocal home crowd. But if you thought that would be the end of the Magpies, you were handed a swift reality check.
Collingwood bent, but never broke. The visitors responded to West Coast taking a third-quarter lead by kicking the next two goals. And when they fell behind in the last quarter, they again returned serve with three straight majors.
Ultimately, the seventh lead change of the night would be the final one. And it would be Collingwood's lead that stuck through to the end. Making up the numbers in this year's finals series? Not quite.
WEST COAST 1.2 5.4 7.6 11.9 (75)
COLLINGWOOD 4.0 6.1 9.4 12.4 (76)
West Coast: Kennedy 3, Darling 3, Allen 2, Ainsworth, Cripps, Ryan
Collingwood: Cox 3, Mihocek 3, De Goey 2, Adams, Noble, Elliott, Hoskin-Elliott
West Coast: Naitanui, Ryan, Kennedy, Duggan, Gaff, Darling
Collingwood: Adams, Treloar, Mihocek, Cox, Pendlebury, Mayne
West Coast: Nil