IF COLLINGWOOD only has one trick, it's a good one.
On Friday night the Pies did it again, winning another thriller. But this time, it was the most significant, most stirring and most important of the lot.
DEMONS v MAGPIES Full match coverage and stats
Their seven-point win over Melbourne at the MCG in the game of the year was their sixth-straight win by under 10 points, their 10th win by under two goals this season and their 11th win in a row.
But most strikingly this was the game where, in beating last year's premiers, Craig McRae's side established itself as a bona fide premiership contender this season, every bit as capable as any of the rest. There can be no doubts, no misgivings, no queries now on Collingwood's charge: as unlikely as it may seem, the Pies are capable of being premiers this year.
Collingwood's 15.6 (96) to 13.11 (89) win came after the Demons had led by 23 points in the second term and against a weight of statistical dominance from last year's flag winners.
But, as has become customary with the black and white in 2022, Collingwood always hung in the game, kicking important goals when they were needed, and ripping back momentum of the game.
Jamie Elliott lit the fuse for the Magpies with four goals but it was four-game sensation Ash Johnson who was the second-half hero, also finishing with four goals, including the final of the game. NAB AFL Rising Star lock Nick Daicos had 31 disposals in a typically polished display, while Jack Crisp (24 disposals), Jordan De Goey (25 disposals, one goal) and Brayden Maynard (18 disposals) were among Collingwood's best.
The nature of the comeback win, which appeared against all the odds on the stats sheet, served as another reminder of Collingwood's resilience this season on its remarkable winning run.
The guns were loaded early for an old-fashioned shootout. Melbourne took an eight-point lead into the first change, but 11 goals were shared between the sides in a highlights-laden term that saw De Goey open the scoring with a clever snap, Christian Petracca respond with his own and a smattering of classy goals.
Jack Viney hit the scoreboard from the boundary line, Elliott kicked two for the quarter, Bayley Fritsch took a hanger and Kysaiah Pickett finished off a scintillating Melbourne run with a goal.
The goals kept coming in the second term but it was mainly Melbourne's way as Simon Goodwin's team took control. It jumped to a 23-point lead before back-to-back Collingwood goals kept the Pies within striking distance.
However, as Angus Brayshaw, Viney and Petracca continued to dominate the midfield battle and the Demons pounded their forward 50, Ben Brown's long curling kick and Fritsch's set-shot bomb helped restore the Dees' 22-point lead.
Johnson's smart goal got the Pies back to within 17 points at half-time but the rate of entries – Melbourne had 41 inside 50s at half-time to Collingwood's 18 – meant they were battling a rising tide.
But the screws tightened in the third quarter. Against the run of play Beau McCreery kicked the first goal of the term, leaving the Demons without a major until the 18-minute mark, when Charlie Spargo smartly skipped a kick through from the pocket after a brilliant chain of play from his side.
Melbourne's torrent of play continued but so did its inability to break clear of the Magpies, who kept naggingly close to the Demons. And when Patrick Lipinski coolly snapped around his body in the dying minutes of the quarter, the Magpies had gotten back to within six points.
Goals were traded in a hectic final term, with Josh Daicos' long bomb appearing a game-changer for the Pies before Alex Neal-Bullen responded for the Demons. But it was Johnson's goal, which came after a free kick for a push in the back against Harrison Petty, which was the sealer in a huge, high-stakes clash.
'I'D LOVE JORDY TO STAY' McRae wants midfielder to remain at Pies, Dees wingman made a mistake
Jamie's big night
Jamie Elliott is in a rich vein of form and had one of the best games of his season in his 150th game. Two weeks after being the match-winner against Essendon after the siren, Elliott was the best forward on the ground against Melbourne, booting four goals and being lively throughout. The star forward hit the scoreboard not through his usual craftiness and class around goal, but through forward tackle pressure, with the 29-year-old kicking three goals through tackles and laying four inside-50 tackles for the night.
All duck, all dinner
Collingwood players had caught up with the news. Extra spice was added to the game with Ed Langdon's comments on radio on Thursday that the Magpies were "all duck, no dinner" and a "one-trick pony" and it took no time for Collingwood to let the premiership Demon know its thoughts. After the opening bounce, the ball flicked out to Langdon's wing, where he gathered it and was met by a crunching tackle by Magpie Brayden Maynard. Another three Magpies jumped in on the tackle in a fierce start to the game that led to a mini scuffle. The Pies got the last laugh over Langdon, who was booed throughout the game by Collingwood fans.
Free kick spotlight
Everywhere Jack Ginnivan has gone this season, something has tended to happen. And again it was the case early on Friday night, when he was given a free kick for a high tackle as he contested a ball with Demon Trent Rivers on the wing. After not being paid some clear free kicks in recent weeks, Ginnivan was rewarded for this one, seeing Collingwood fans in raptures. The clever and crafty small forward helped stir them up, too, appearing to gesture to the crowd after the free kick went his way.
MELBOURNE 6.2 10.7 11.11 13.11 (89)
COLLINGWOOD 5.0 8.2 11.4 15.6 (96)
Melbourne: Brown 2, Fritsch 2, Langdon, Melksham, Neal-Bullen, Petracca, Pickett, Salem, Spargo, Sparrow, Viney
Collingwood: Elliott 4, Johnson 4, Mihocek 2, Cox, J.Daicos, De Goey, Lipinski, McCreery
Melbourne: Petracca, Oliver, Brayshaw, Gawn, Jordon, Viney
Collingwood: Elliott, De Goey, Johnson, N.Daicos, Crisp, Maynard
Collingwood: Hoskin-Elliott (hip)
Melbourne: James Harmes (unused)
Collingwood: Trent Bianco (replaced Will Hoskin-Elliott in the third quarter)