CHRIS Fagan had resigned himself to Brisbane playing in an elimination final as he watched his team from the boundary line late in Saturday's gripping finish against West Coast.
Whether it was his own coping mechanism or the truth, the Lions' coach said he had given up on passing the Western Bulldogs on percentage and sneaking into the top four.
Brisbane took until the final 30 seconds to earn their double chance, as first Daniel Rich and then Dan McStay sprayed shots from outside 50m before Lincoln McCarthy snuck through the crucial behind.
LIONS v EAGLES Full match coverage and stats
"To be honest I thought we wouldn't win by enough to move up," Fagan said following the match.
"I'd resigned myself to the fact we were going to finish fifth and play an elimination final.
"It's out of your hands as a coach and it's up to the players to find a way and they did."
Fagan said the Lions had run out of rotations in the dying minutes, meaning they had to shout instructions from their interchange bench about the time and score.
He said in his 20-plus years in the competition, never had he been through a final round scenario like that.
"I sent a text around to the boys this morning trying to explain (the winning margin required), because I knew, like me, they'd be getting a lot of texts asking ‘How much do you need to win by?’.
"We didn't talk about it before or during the game. I was more concerned with the process."
Brisbane will go into its qualifying final next weekend with full-back Harris Andrews despite the two-time All Australian being a late scratching against the Eagles.
Fagan said his star defender had hamstring tightness and it was purely a precautionary measure.
"The hard work begins now," he said.
"We've toiled for six months to get ourselves into this spot and now we've got to try and make the most of it.
"I said last week I just believe our best football this year is the best we've played over the last four or five years and, if we can reproduce it enough over the next month, we'll take a bit of beating."
Meanwhile, West Coast coach Adam Simpson was left to lament a season of inconsistency after his depleted outfit took it up to the Lions for three-and-a-half quarters before running out of legs.
"We hung in there and fought pretty hard but just weren’t good enough," he said.
"The effort was there today.
"The energy and effort was there from the start and unfortunately there’s just been too many times this year where we just haven’t brought that same intensity when we’ve needed to.
"We’ve got to learn and grow from that.
"It’s obvious, the inconsistencies we’ve had this year with a whole wide range of things that we’ll look into, the injuries, the synergy, the fluctuations in-game.
'All those things we are going to look at and dig pretty deep.
"It’s been a pretty big campaign over the last several years and we need to take a breath, work out how we are going to get better.
"It starts with everything in our department and we’ll get onto that."