FORTUNES in footy can change awfully quickly – just ask Greater Western Sydney.
In grave danger of missing the finals altogether just a matter of weeks ago, GWS continued its charge into the top four with a brutal 105-point victory over Carlton on Sunday.
On a weekend that typified a wild and unpredictable season, the Giants continued to look like one of the League's most assured sides in seeing off the Blues 23.13 (151) to 7.4 (46).
But if the club's performances over the last two months had changed its fortunes for the better, injuries to a host of key players could soon swing them back the other way.
WINNING HURTS Five talking points
Remarkably, the Giants played the majority of Sunday's second half with no one on the bench after Brett Deledio (calf), Toby Greene (hamstring), Dawson Simpson (ankle) and Sam Taylor (hamstring) all limped from the field on either side of the main break.
It meant, incredibly, the Giants played large periods of the last quarter with just 16 players on the field – with two players at a time coming for a rest without replacements.
Injury now appears the only threat to GWS' momentum as it marches towards September.
"I thought we played really well," Giants coach Leon Cameron said.
"I thought everything we did, the majority was right. We defended well, we used the ball well, our forwards looked dangerous, our midfielders got to work.
"There's no doubt having that sort of injury list on your bench, for some of the players coming off looking for a spell would've been a little bit tough for them."
With eight victories under their belt from their last nine matches, the visitors were typically polished around the footy to control proceedings from the outset at Etihad Stadium.
That winning run has coincided with Josh Kelly's return to the team, with the classy midfielder again front and centre at every contest to continue his stellar form streak.
GAME BREAKER Kelly's clean skills on display
Kelly finished with 41 disposals, 10 clearances, 16 inside 50s and four goal assists in a terrific performance that justified his position as one of the game's best players.
Stephen Coniglio (36 disposals, two goals) and Callan Ward (34 disposals, nine clearances) were also influential, while Lachie Whitfield (28 disposals) was prolific across half-back.
In his first game back following a five-match ban, Jeremy Cameron shook off early rustiness with a three-goal second quarter as the Giants swarmed to a 51-point lead at half-time.
Aiden Bonar enjoyed an afternoon to remember on debut, booting two goals as the Giants continued to pile the misery on the Blues in what resembled a second-half training drill.
In the midst of the Giants' onslaught, Harry McKay offered a glimmer of hope for the Blues.
Along with Patrick Cripps, who again battled manfully throughout the afternoon, McKay stood tallest for Carlton to kick three goals from 15 disposals and eight marks.
Unfortunately for the hosts, it provided little resistance, with the Giants simply too strong.
"We just played a serious contender," Carlton coach Brendon Bolton said.
"It's a fantastic template for our midfielders, to understand the running power required. That's the hardest-running midfield we've witnessed this year.
"They spread really strongly off our younger midfielders and they outnumbered in their forward line with that run, so that's the level our guys need to aspire to run at."
Carlton: The Blues lost Jack Silvagni before the game to an ankle injury, but otherwise got through the match relatively unscathed.
GWS: The Giants finished the match with no one on the bench after a disastrous match on the injury front. Brett Deledio suffered a calf setback, Toby Greene had hamstring tightness, Dawson Simpson limped off with a nasty ankle injury and Sam Taylor suffered hamstring soreness. All will be in doubt for next week's game.
Carlton travels to take on Fremantle at Optus Stadium next Sunday evening, while Greater Western Sydney hosts Adelaide in Canberra on Saturday night.
CARLTON 1.2 4.3 6.4 7.4 (46)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 5.5 12.6 16.10 23.13 (151)
Carlton: McKay 3, Wright 2, Dow, C Curnow
Greater Western Sydney: Cameron 4, Himmelberg 3, Tomlinson 3, Daniels 2, de Boer 2, Kennedy 2, Bonar 2, Coniglio 2, Whitfield, Langdon, Hopper
Carlton: McKay, Cripps, Murphy
Greater Western Sydney: Kelly, Whitfield, Coniglio, Kennedy, Ward, Hopper, Cameron
Carlton: Silvagni (ankle) replaced in selected side by Graham
Greater Western Sydney: Deledio (left calf), Taylor (left hamstring), Simpson (left ankle), Greene (left hamstring)
Umpires: Fisher, Stevic, Mollison
Official crowd: 16,697 at Etihad Stadium