PORT Adelaide has survived a massive scare to stay in touch with the top four with a thrilling one-point come-from-behind victory over a brave Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday afternoon.
Despite being second-best for the majority of the contest and trailing until time on in the final term, Ken Hinkley's side turned the game its way during a tight fourth quarter to register an 8.11 (59) to 8.10 (58) win.
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It was a four-goal-to-two final stanza that gave Port Adelaide the impetus, with Sam Powell-Pepper, Robbie Gray, Travis Boak and Charlie Dixon instrumental in the late turnaround that swung the momentum and gave the visitors their first lead of the afternoon.
Just when it looked like the Power were home and hosed they had to hold off one last spirited challenge from the Pies as Beau McCreery and Caleb Poulter goaled in quick succession to set up the grandstand finish.
But Port Adelaide held on in a thrilling climax to an otherwise dour clash to pick up its seventh victory of the season and leave the Pies floundering in 16th place with just two wins for the year.
Experienced midfielders Boak (28 disposals) and Ollie Wines (27) won plenty of the ball for the winners, but Gray (18 touches and three goals) and Powell-Pepper (18 disposals and eight tackles) were just as important.
Taylor Adams (29 disposals) and Steele Sidebottom (27) led the way for the Magpies, who were also well serviced by ruckman Brodie Grundy (23 disposals, 33 hitouts and nine clearances) and Darcy Moore (25 disposals and 15 marks).
Grundy was doing as he liked against Peter Ladhams in the middle of the ground and the Pies used the ball quickly to shoot out to an 18-point advantage at quarter-time.
It took some Gray magic to kickstart Port Adelaide's challenge midway through the second term as the veteran booted two goals in succession, but it was still the Pies by 15 points at the main break.
Dixon sprang to life with a goal early in the third term and then set up Todd Marshall for another shortly after as the visitors loomed hard, only for McCreery to counter with consecutive majors as the Pies remained 13 points in front at the final change.
Dixon and Powell-Pepper lifted in the final stanza with the game on the line as Port claimed the lead and then held on to deny the Magpies what would have been a well-deserved victory.
Pies up the ante with banner banter
Much has been said about the off-field stoush between Collingwood and Port Adelaide regarding the usage of the prison bar jumper and the Magpies' cheer squad couldn't resist a cheeky dig at their South Australian counterparts on their matchday banner pre-game.
Contested ball remains Port's Achilles heel
Ken Hinkley has said all season his side must improve in this area and Sunday's clash only amplified that as Port Adelaide once again lost the contested possession count (137-127). The clearance statistic wasn't any better for Port Adelaide, with the Pies in front 35-29 in that key area. Port is well in the mix for the premiership, but still has plenty of work to do if it is to go all the way.
Returning cavalry may save Bucks yet
The Pies haven't had much to cheer about on the injury front this season, but they did get Taylor Adams and Jordon Roughead back on Sunday and livewire forward Jamie Elliott isn't far away from making his return. A return of key personnel doesn't always lead to wins, but Nathan Buckley may have something to show for the Pies' disappointing season thus far if his key players stay fit and their effort can match the one they showed on Sunday.
COLLINGWOOD 3.1 4.6 6.9 8.10 (58)
PORT ADELAIDE 0.1 2.3 4.8 8.11 (59)
Collingwood: McCreery 3, Grundy 2, Cameron, Daicos, Poulter
Port Adelaide: Gray 3, Dixon, Marshall, Houston, Powell-Pepper, Wines
Collingwood: Adams, Grundy, Quaynor, Moore, Roughead, Crisp
Port Adelaide: Gray, Boak, Powell-Pepper, Wines, Burton, Farrell
Port Adelaide: Nil
Collingwood: Murphy (unused)
Port Adelaide: Bergman (unused)
Crowd: 23,415 at MCG