ON A NIGHT in which it struggled for attacking fluency, Brisbane got its hands dirty to muscle past an injury-ravaged St Kilda by 21 points at the Gabba on Saturday night.
The Lions trailed by 12 points at half-time but dominated field position and eventually forced its way to a 10.18 (78) to 8.9 (57) victory, despite some inaccurate kicking around goal.
LIONS v SAINTS Full match coverage and stats
It was the Lions' 10th win of the season and maintains their second spot on the ladder ahead of a bye and a round 15 date with premier Melbourne.
While others struggled to hit targets under heavy pressure, Hugh McCluggage rose when his team needed it, gathering 33 disposals and seven clearances in a pure midfield role, adding a brilliant running goal from 50 metres early in the last quarter.
Lachie Neale (37 touches) was prolific, while Joe Daniher (three goals) made a successful return from shoulder injury after missing the past six weeks.
Brisbane overcome a slow start in the contested possession count to match the Saints in that area, get on top in the clearances (34-25) and dominate the inside-50 count 60-41.
Its defence, which had leaked 104 points a game over the past three weeks, was rock solid, with great pressure around the ball and half-backs Keidean Coleman and Brandon Starcevich influencing with their intercepting.
It was a rough night for the Saints, who had to play the final term with just two fit players on the bench after Mitch Owens (concussion), Dan McKenzie (concussion) and Zak Jones (hamstring) were all unavailable.
Jack Sinclair, Seb Ross and Jade Gresham all worked tirelessly, but the Saints were overwhelmed and eventually ran out of legs.
Following a slow start, Brisbane led by three points at quarter-time despite squandering some golden chances around goal.
Daniher and Charlie Cameron kicked two goals within a minute, but the lead could have been greater had Cameron added a second from close range on-the-run, and Jarrod Berry handballed to unmarked teammates in the goalsquare rather than snapping wide on his left boot.
St Kilda continued to frustrate the hosts in the second term, kicking three goals to one, with McKenzie kicking one just before half-time shortly after Daniher gave away a 50m penalty.
Injury chaos for the Saints
St Kilda played with just two players on the bench in the final quarter after a night of injury carnage. It started late in the first half when youngster Mitch Owens suffered a sickening head clash with Lion Linc McCarthy, coming off worse for wear and being ruled out through concussion protocols. It was Dan McKenzie succumbing to the same fate in the third quarter after landing heavily in a marking contest, and late in the quarter it was Zak Jones being ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Big Joe v Big Max
Two of the best key forwards in the competition, the battle of influence between Joe Daniher and Max King was always going to be a tantalising one. Daniher, playing his first game in six weeks after overcoming a shoulder injury, had a big impact, kicking 3.2 from 10 disposals. His towering third quarter mark and goal was important, as was his gimmie from the goal-line to give the Lions breathing space in the fourth. At the other end King kicked the game's first two goals, but as St Kilda's forward forays dried up, so did his impact. He waged an engrossing battle with Harris Andrews, finishing with 2.3 from 10 touches.
The old 12-point play
In a low-scoring first half, Brisbane kicked half its score in the space of 60 seconds thanks to the rare 12-point play. Joe Daniher opened the Lions goalscoring account with a quick snap from congestion, and then as teammates celebrated, Brad Crouch slung Charlie Cameron to the turf. Before the ball had returned to the centre bounce, Cameron was given a free and the dynamic small forward converted his set shot from 35m.
BRISBANE 2.4 3.6 7.10 10.18 (78)
ST KILDA 2.1 5.6 7.7 8.9 (57)
Brisbane: Daniher 3, McCarthy 2, Cameron, McCluggage, Robinson, Bailey, Starcevich
St Kilda: Gresham 2, King 2, Butler, Crouch, Higgins, McKenzie
Brisbane: McCluggage, Neale, Starcevich, Daniher, Coleman, Berry
St Kilda: Sinclair, Ross, Gresham, Battle, Paton
Brisbane: Zorko (hamstring), Gardiner (back)
St Kilda: Owens (concussion), McKenzie (concussion), Jones (hamstring)
Brisbane: Darcy Fort (replaced Zorko at three quarter-time)
St Kilda: Jarrod Lienert (replaced Mitch Owens at half-time)