GOLD COAST 2.2 5.3 8.7 11.14 (80)COLLINGWOOD 4.3 6.8 6.13 10.15 (75)
Goals: Gold Coast: S Day 4 C Dixon 2 T Lynch 2 A Hall D Prestia H Bennell. Collingwood: B Kennedy 2 C Young 2 T Cloke 2 J Thomas P Seedsman S Sidebottom T Goldsack.
Best: Gold Coast Suns: Swallow, Day, O'Meara, Lynch, Bennell.May. Collingwood: Pendlebury, Beams, Sidebottom, Kennedy, Goldsack, Witts.
Injuries: Gold Coast: C Dixon (calf) G Ablett (shoulder) S Lemmens (concussion) T McKenzie (hamstring).
Umpires: Ben Ryan, Jacob Mollison, Mathew Nicholls.
Official Crowd: 24,032 at Metricon Stadium.
It happened in the ninth minute of the third quarter: Gold Coast Suns defender Kade Kolodjashnij popped the ball up a little too high for Gary Ablett's comfort. Ablett's shadow, Brent Macaffer, closed to make the spoil, then tackled Ablett into the turf. The distress on Ablett's face was immediate.
The champion was straight down the race, his shoulder dislocated - the first serious injury Ablett has sustained in his time at the Suns, and one that will surely test his young team's mettle in the weeks ahead like never before.
But Brownlow medal markets, and the results of Ablett's scans on Monday, would have to wait. In the meantime, the Suns still had a game to win: a match they'd managed to claw their way back into, in no small way due to Ablett, who'd begun to climb on top of Macaffer
Collingwood, having established a handy lead, was kicking itself out of a contest it should have already had in its keeping. From the moment Tyson Goldsack sent through a long bomb seven minutes into the second quarter, the Pies couldn't hit the side of a barn: they had 10 behinds in a row.
The longer it went, the more Collingwood's delivery inside 50 disintegrated, and the more the Suns, after a terrible start, gained in belief. They'd just hit the front, courtesy of a wonderful piece of evasive play by prodigy Jack Martin, who delivered the ball to Tom Lynch on a plate.
But they were running out of men. Charlie Dixon, who'd dominated Lachie Keeffe, was already wearing the red vest with a sore calf. By early in the last quarter, Trent McKenzie was gone for weeks with a torn hamstring. Sean Lemmens had a gash spouting blood over his eye and was off with concussion.
Less than half way through the last quarter, the word went out to the Suns: there were literally no men left to rotate. The final tally was 105 to 78.
No matter the ultimate cost, you really couldn't talk up a Suns victory more after that, the home side raising its intensity to destroy the shell-shocked Magpies. Their best win? Don't even ask. And what to say of Collingwood, unable to overrun its crippled opponents? Perhaps that's best left to coach Nathan Buckley.
There were heroes, and villains too. Sam Day's fourth goal, in the 25th minute, gave the Suns a 10-point break. Day had been on the verge of being dropped, but the Suns' three-pronged tall forward line is a hard one to counter, and even though young Ben Kennedy replied immediately for the Pies, it was enough to get the job done.
And then there was Clinton Young, who dropped a sitter in front of goal 15 metres in the clear. Had he marked and kicked truly, the Magpies would have been in front, and likely held on. Young, whose kicking had been a weapon early in the match, had lost his mojo entirely; despite being a solid contributor, he will long rue this game.
David Swallow was a prime mover for the Suns, a bull at the clearances and a leader in Ablett's absence with 31 possessions. Jaeger O'Meara again showed poise beyond his years. The Magpies just couldn't call on that depth of leadership, despite Scott Pendlebury again being among their best. Dane Swan was particularly poor.
Really, they should have buried the game long earlier. After an early goal to Tom Lynch, Young had bobbed up with two goals, the second a trademark shot from beyond 50. Cloke, meanwhile, was getting so much of the ball (nine possessions in the first quarter alone) that Steven May had to be replaced by Rory Thompson.
Between them, Cloke and Young could have finished the Suns off by half time, until afflictions, both familiar and bizarre, struck.
First, Cloke managed to poke himself in the eye while trying to gather a bouncing ball. Then he did the same to his team, spraying two simple shots on his return. Young also missed twice, and a paltry return of two goals followed by 10 behinds - in a row - simply begged to be punished after the Magpies had spent far longer in attack.
Forget the Magpies being just a game from top spot ahead of the match. They are pretenders. Their final eight spot is not even assured. The Suns? They will suffer for this victory, and everyone will be sweating on the result of Ablett's scans. But this was a win for the ages.