North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell has kicked a last-minute winning goal to break Western Bulldogs hearts in a two-point AFL thriller at Etihad Stadium.
The brave Dogs fell behind in the final term after leading most of the night.
They retook the lead through Billy Gowers with about two minutes left only to see Ziebell slot through a goal with 20 seconds remaining to seal a 12.5 (77) to 11.9 (75) win in front of 26,301 fans on Saturday night.
“We were on the wrong end of quite a few of those (results) last year,” North coach Brad Scott said.
“They’re really painful at the time but you then train it and it’s great for the players to be on the right side of one of those really close games when it looked like it had slipped away from us.”
Ben Brown, who booted a game-high five goals, found Ziebell on the edge of the goal square with a neat soccered pass in the frantic dying seconds for the last goal of the contest.
Ziebell finished with three goals, while Shaun Higgins (32 possessions and two goals), Ben Cunnington (30 touches) and Todd Goldstein (20 possessions and 42 hitouts) were also influential.
Hayden Crozier had a career-best 30 disposals in his best game for the Dogs, with Lachie Hunter (30) and Toby McLean (26) prominent.
It was a cruel end for the Bulldogs who have disappointed for much of the season but rediscovered the high-intensity game that propelled them to the 2016 premiership.
The fired-up Dogs led the listless Roos by a goal at quarter-time and 18 points at halftime.
But as they have too often in a frustrating season they were unable to maintain the same intensity.
The Roos lifted as well, Brown adding two more and Higgins booting the last two goals on the third quarter to slash the margin to two points.
North looked set to overpower the Dogs after they booted the first two goals of the final term.
Ed Richards and Gowers had Bulldogs fans on their feet only for Ziebell to get on the end of a pivotal coast-to-coast play.
“We fell apart structurally in the last two minutes,” coach Luke Beveridge lamented.
“It’s frustrating (actually) it’s more than frustrating … it’s extremely disappointing.
“We got ourselves into a position to win it, that’s a positive sign, but we couldn’t sustain what we’d done in the first half.”
The Kangaroos improved to an 8-5 record with the result, while the Dogs (4-9) slipped to their fifth loss in a row.
Australian Associated Press