AARON Naughton has done it again.
After announcing himself as a future star with a best-afield display against Richmond in round seven, the emerging Western Bulldogs gun delivered again on Saturday night as the Dogs shocked premiership favourites Geelong.
Naughton was the difference in the Bulldogs' come-from-behind 16-point win at Marvel Stadium, booting four goals in a dominant display in attack.
In another low-scoring affair – continuing the trend of round 16 – Naughton's presence up forward was priceless.
He was a constant target in the Dogs' 10.11 (71) to 7.13 (55) win, leaping high in the air, being strong on the lead and creating chances at his feet.
DOGS DO THE JOB Full match coverage and stats
Naughton, who had nine marks and 14 disposals, is only 19 and in his second season at AFL level, but his place among the competition's elite looks only a matter of time.
He wasn't doing it against a middling line-up, either. Geelong has won plenty of credits for its defensive dominance this season, but Naughton was too good for potential All Australian full-back Mark Blicavs.
Midfield trio Lachie Hunter (32 disposals), Jackson Macrae (34) and Marcus Bontempelli (27, one goal) were also vital in the Dogs' second consecutive win, while Toby McLean (23) made a strong return to the senior side, including an important effort in the final minute to ensure the Dogs' victory.
Geelong's midfield was down, while it struggled for tall options in attack with Tom Hawkins only managing two goals and little influence.
Nevertheless, they led for most of the night until the Dogs' five-goal-to-one final term saw them overrun the ladder-leaders.
The Cats were more threatening early, scoring from eight of their nine inside-50 entries for the first term, with the Bulldogs unable to capitalise on their opportunities.
WATCH Naughton dominates the skies
Geelong deserved its 13-point lead at quarter-time, but with Naughton strong in the air and in early marking form, plus the start of the Dogs' midfield unit, Luke Beveridge's men looked up for the fight.
Naughton booted the Dogs' first of the second term, before Patrick Dangerfield struck back for the Cats.
What ensued thereafter was a slog: both teams coughing up the ball as they pushed forward, with their attacking forays ruined by skill errors and poor decisions. Even the best were caught out, with Bontempelli and Dangerfield wasteful.
The Dogs should have been closer. They were able to match the Cats around the ball, and defensively had shut down the competition's highest-scoring side.
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But they couldn't reap any rewards for their work, although a Sam Lloyd goal after the half-time siren cut the deficit back to nine points at the main change.
Any hopes of the floodgates opening in the third quarter were not answered, with the scrappy contest continuing.
Ed Richards provided the highlight, as the Bulldogs youngster ran back with the flight and crashed into the point post to take a brave mark.
He swiftly offloaded the ball to Lloyd, who snapped truly, dragging the Dogs back within two points of the Cats.
The Cats' 10-point lead at three-quarter time was quickly whittled away after Naughton struck again early in the last term, before Bontempelli goaled from close range at the 11-minute mark to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time of the night.
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Naughton then kicked another, before young gun Bailey Smith sat at the feet of a pack, roved it smartly and snapped a goal to put them 16 points ahead. It was the killer blow in a dogged arm wrestle.
The significance of Bailey Smith's late goal wasn't lost on the man himself. Picture: AFL Photos
Western Bulldogs: The Dogs appeared to get through the game without any major injury worries.
Geelong: Defender Jake Kolojashnij suffered a head knock in the first quarter and was ruled out of the rest of the game with concussion. Brandan Parfitt was rested and replaced in the starting line up by Gary Rohan.
The Cats will host St Kilda at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday, while the Dogs will be looking to continue their winning run against Melbourne next Sunday at Marvel Stadium.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.4 3.5 5.7 10.11 (71)
GEELONG 3.5 4.8 6.11 7.13 (55)
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 4, Lloyd 3, Dixon, Bontempelli, Smith
Geelong: Dangerfield 2, Hawkins 2, Rohan, Kelly, Selwood
Western Bulldogs: Naughton, Bontempelli, Macrae, Hunter, McLean, Johannisen
Geelong: Tuohy, Stewart, Dangerfield, Clark, Kelly
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Geelong: Parfitt (rested) replaced in final side by Gary Rohan, Kolodjashnij (head)
Umpires: Stevic, Brown, McInerney
Official crowd: 35,641 at Marvel Stadium