NORTH Melbourne coach David Noble looks safe for another week after the Kangaroos nearly pulled off a stunning upset win over Collingwood.
The Magpies kicked 5.5 to two behinds in the last quarter on Saturday at the MCG for their seventh straight win, 13.10 (88) to 12.9 (81).
MAGPIES V KANGAROOS Full match coverage and stats
Speculation was rife in pre-game radio shows that this would be Noble's last game as coach.
The Kangaroos were a vastly different team compared to last week's 112-point mauling from Geelong and this was their highest score of the season.
While it was also their 14th straight loss as they head to the wooden spoon, it was North's best effort of the season.
North midfielder Luke Davies-Uniacke was best afield with 33 possessions and key forward Nick Larkey kicked five goals.
'I BELIEVE IN WHAT I'M DOING' Noble not done yet
Midfielder Taylor Adams, Collingwood's best player, went off late in the last quarter with a head knock.
The Kangaroos started brilliantly, dominating the centre clearances and taking an early two-goal lead.
After Ben McKay's move forward last week against Geelong failed, he started as usual in defence.
Scores were level at the first change and captain Jack Ziebell, back from a nasty facial fracture, sparked his team with the opening goal of the second quarter.
The Kangaroos kicked four goals to one for a 20-point lead and put Collingwood firmly on the back foot.
That lead was extended to a game-high 28 points in the third term before the Magpies inevitably hit back with two goals, but North steadied to lead by 26 at three-quarter time.
The Magpies then stormed home as Jeremy Howe and Scott Pendlebury took big marks in defence.
Josh Carmichael made his debut after Jordan De Goey was ruled out on Friday with a quad strain.
Carmichael was picked up last month in the mid-season draft and had a raucous fan club in the crowd as he had 14 disposals.
Roos respond to high-pressure week
Pressure has been steadily building on the embattled North Melbourne in recent months, and it reached fever pitch in the week following last round's 112-point loss to Geelong. But the Kangaroos showed no signs that the pressure had gotten to them, making a statement from the very first minute against the Pies. North has made some surprise positional changes in recent weeks, and did so again on Saturday, sending first-choice ruck Todd Goldstein into the forward line for the opening bounce. And it immediately paid off. North won the clearance – courtesy of Luke Davies-Uniacke who has been having a good season despite the Roos' woes – and sent the ball straight into big Goldy's lap. He converted the set shot, gifting North the early momentum and leaving the Pies shellshocked. While they ultimately couldn't hold on until the end, North's effort was unlike anything we've seen from them all season – which is, finally, a positive sign.
Darcy Cameron is really very good
Much has been written about how good Darcy Cameron has been this year, and against North it was obvious why. He held his own at clearances, but it was his presence around the ground that was dangerous. Cameron's usefulness was typified in an extraordinary passage of play in the third quarter, where he spun away from a gaggle of North defenders to slot a goal on the run, showcasing an agility that is not something you see every day from a 204cm ruck. His season-high three goals came at crucial times, with his first getting the Pies back in front in the first quarter, and his second stemming a flood of North goals and arresting their momentum. His third was the most crucial of all - giving the Pies the lead back with just eight minutes left on the clock. Brodie Grundy may find it harder to break back into the Pies' starting 22 than he originally thought.
What does this mean for David Noble?
This was North's best performance so far this year. Collingwood came into the game in red-hot form, having already won six on the bounce and with finals in its sights. Pressure had been building on coach David Noble, especially after last week's shellacking, and many would have expected another disappointing performance from his side. But the Kangaroos looked like a different team this week, dominating around the ball and showing a fluidity in ball movement they haven't displayed so far this year. While they ultimately ran out of puff, their effort showed a glimpse of improvement - and therefore a glimmer of hope for a coach whose approach has been questioned.
COLLINGWOOD 4.2 5.3 8.5 13.10 (88)
NORTH MELBOURNE 4.2 8.4 12.7 12.9 (81)
Collingwood: Cameron 3, Sidebottom 2, Ginnivan 2, Elliott 2, J.Daicos, Mihocek, McCreery, N.Daicos
North Melbourne: Larkey 5, Goldstein 2, Ziebell 2, Zurhaar, Taylor, Curtis
Collingwood: J.Daicos, Cameron, N.Daicos, Adams, Elliott
North Melbourne: Davies-Uniacke, Simpkin, Anderson, McKay, Larkey, Goldstein
Collingwood: Adams (concussion)
North Melbourne: Stephenson (hip)
Collingwood: Tyler Brown
North Melbourne: Jack Mahony (replaced Jaidyn Stephenson)