BEN REID has made a triumphant return to football, kicking four goals in his 100th game to spearhead Collingwood's 18-point win over Carlton in a dreary clash at the MCG on Saturday.
In his first game since round 21 last season, Reid made a bright start before kicking two fourth-quarter goals to seal the 16.9 (105) to 13.9 (87) win, which was the Magpies' first in seven matches.
Staring at its worst losing streak since 1999, Collingwood was forced to lift in the last term after the Blues cut the margin from 29 points midway through the third quarter to just three points.
Led by star midfielders Dane Swan (41 possessions and three goals) and Scott Pendlebury (37 and nine tackles), they turned a forgettable match on its head to kick seven of the last 11 goals and keep their slim finals hopes alive.
It was a vintage performance from Swan, who won crucial clearances in the fourth quarter and finished with 40-plus possessions for the first time since round 15, 2013.
He was never needed more than in the frantic fourth quarter, when Carlton got a smell of victory with back-to-back goals to cut the margin to seven points at the 21-minute mark.
But the Blues gave away an undisciplined free kick before the resulting centre bounce, giving the Magpies possession in the middle and allowing them to push forward for Reid's fourth goal.
Even that was laced with controversy after Alex Fasolo, who booted four goals, appeared to throw the ball into Reid's path.
There was little to celebrate in the first three quarters, as the teams combined for 16 goals in a clash that reflected their recent records, with a win-loss of 1-11 between them since round 13.
The open but chaotic fourth quarter was a riot in comparison, with another 13 goals being kicked.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley told his players post-match "they won't play in an uglier win in their lives".
"When you have a run like we've had, invariably it doesn't come with a breakout, it comes with an ugly performance," the coach said.
"We left the door ajar for a long time rather than closing it shut, and that's what you get when you're not quite on top of your game.
"We were able to hold the tide back for long enough and then kick enough of a score late in the last quarter to get over the line."
The Blues took the bold step of dropping Chris Yarran this week, but they could desperately have done with a player willing to take the game on from half-back.
They relied on midfielders Marc Murphy (35 possessions and nine inside 50s) and Patrick Cripps (35 and 11 clearances) to keep them afloat, with Andrejs Everitt booting four goals.
"I was frustrated with some of the decision-making and frustrated with some of the skill execution," coach John Barker said post-match.
"We tried to use our numbers around the ball and at times went sideways when we could have made ground … we overused the ball a bit.
"There were a couple of inexperienced players who probably didn't quite get it right, but they'll learn from that."
Dane Swan faces up to Blue Blaine Boekhorst. Picture: AFL Media
COLLINGWOOD 3.2 7.7 9.9 16.9 (105)
CARLTON 2.2 5.3 7.6 13.9 (87)
Collingwood: Fasolo 4, Reid 4, Swan 3, Elliott 2, Maynard, Crisp, Blair
Carlton: Everitt 4, Casboult 2, Murphy 2, Carrazzo, Bell, Buckley, Boekhorst, Whiley
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Fasolo, Swan, Langdon, Grundy, Elliott
Carlton: Murphy, Simpson, Everitt, Cripps, Carrazzo, Jamison
Collingwood: Adams (corked quad)
Collingwood: Matthew Scharenberg replaced Taylor Adams at three-quarter time
Carlton: Mark Whiley replaced Cameron Wood in the third quarter
Umpires: Deboy, Schmitt, Jeffery
Official crowd: 48,133 at the MCG