COLLINGWOOD has outlasted a brave Carlton to win a fluctuating contest by 15 points before a disappointing crowd of 40,936 at the MCG on Sunday night.
The Pies looked set for an easy night when a streak of six consecutive goals in the first term saw them open up a 31-point lead earlr in the second quarter.
But the Blues, who had been completely outclassed to that point of the game, fought their way back into the match and were a chance of pulling off a remarkable win when they closed to just nine points at the 21-minute mark of the final term after Troy Menzel goaled.
The Blues then threw everything at the Pies for the next five minutes, launching attack after attack, but their challenge was snuffed out when Steele Sidebottom capitalised on a Ed Curnow turnover to goal at the 27-minute and seal a 13.13 (91) to 11.10 (76) win.
Ultimately, the Pies' edge in class proved decisive, with the Blues squandering several chances late in the third term that could have had them much closer than their 23-point deficit at three-quarter time.
The Pies' win ensures they remain one game behind fourth-placed Fremantle, while the Blues will take little solace from their brave performance given it was their fifth loss in a row.
New AFL CEO Gill McLachlan has already suggested the League's flirtation with Sunday night football will not continue next year and this game will likely reinforce his view, with the crowd the lowest between the two traditional powerhouses at the MCG since a 1921 semi-final attracted 37,813.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said the Pies had found a way to win after poor ball use in the second quarter cost them the momentum.
"You don't get out of it … we didn't play our best but we did enough to get the points," Buckley said.
"A couple of weeks ago we came up against a Bulldogs side that was invested and hungry as Carlton were tonight, but we were able to find a way."
Sidebottom was outstanding for the Magpies in his first game back from a three-week suspension, racking up 33 possessions and kicking two goals, including one nearing three-quarter time that halted a Blues' run-on.
Brent Macaffer underlined his status as one of the best run-with midfielders, restricting Carlton skipper Marc Murphy to 15 touches, while Dane Swan was also influential through the midfield for the Pies.
"Once we got our game going I thought we really troubled them (but) at the end it's very hard to beat class – they had too much of it," Malthouse said.
"It was like the little boy in the dyke. We plugged that one and plugged that one and plugged that one and someone else would jump up.
"Sidebottom jumped up … the kick (by Ed Curnow) was a poor option and you put it in the hands of clean classy players and they'll finish off.
"So they finished us off."
Chris Judd was inspirational for the Blues, his run and handball through the midfield helping to pierce Collingwood's defensive lines as Carlton got itself back into the game after quarter-time.
Chris Yarran's run from half-back was also important for the Blues, while Curnow won his battle with Dayne Beams.
The night could prove costly for both teams, with Beams and Blues forward Mitch Robinson both reported, and Collingwood forward Jesse White likely to be scrutinised for an accidental bump on Robinson.
Beams was reported early in the third quarter for striking Curnow in the stomach.
Beams' punch did not appear to be very forceful, with Curnow able to take his subsequent free kick without any apparent discomfort.
Robinson was reported for striking Pies midfielder Taylor Adams in the first quarter.
Replays of the incident appeared to show Robinson landing a left hook on Adams' chin.
Adams did not seem to be seriously hurt, but Robinson faces a nervous wait to see how the Match Review Panel assesses the incident.
White appeared to collect Robinson in the head with his hip as the Blue had his head over the ball late in the third term.
Dale Thomas also faces an anxious wait after he bumped former teammate Swan early in the third quarter, which left the Brownlow medallist to seek medical assessment on his jaw before returning to the field.
A flying Taylor Adams was unable to prevent Daisy Thomas from marking. Picture: AFL Media
COLLINGWOOD 6.3 8.8 10.12 13.13 (91)
CARLTON 2.2 6.3 7.7 11.10 (76)
Collingwood: Pendlebury 2, Young 2, Ball 2, Sidebottom 2, Keeffe, Goldsack, Cloke, Witts, Beams
Carlton: Everitt 2, Henderson 2, Judd, Casboult, McLean, Gibbs, Thomas, Menzel, Murphy
Collingwood: Sidebottom, Macaffer, Swan, Pendlebury, Dwyer, Beams
Carlton: Judd, Gibbs, Curnow, Robinson, Simpson, Jamison
Collingwood: Elliot (hamstring), Langdon (concussion) replaced in selected side by Kennedy
Carlton: White (knee) replaced in selected side by Armfield
Collingwood: Jamie Elliot (hamstring) subbed out for Ben Kennedy in the third quarter
Carlton: Dennis Armfield subbed out for Blaine Johnson in the third quarter
Collingwood: Dayne Beams for striking Ed Curnow
Carlton: Mitch Robinson for striking Taylor Adams
Umpires: Nicholls, Ryan, Jeffery
Official crowd: 40,936 at the MCG