Collingwood has claimed a top-four spot and crushed Carlton’s finals dreams with another unlikely come-from-behind victory at the MCG.
The result meant the Western Bulldogs advanced to the finals in eighth place courtesy of their earlier win over Hawthorn.
In Sunday’s twilight match, the Sydney Swans confirmed third place on the ladder with a 14-point victory over St Kilda at Docklands.
The Blues led by 24 points at three-quarter-time after an eight-goal third term but Collingwood stormed home yet again to snatch a thrilling one-point win.
Collingwood star Jamie Elliott kicked a classic matchwinner for the second time this season as the Magpies prevailed 11.9 (75) to 10.14 (74).
Elliott had the 88,287 spectators — the biggest AFL crowd since the 2019 grand final — stunned as he slotted a running goal at the 26-minute mark, following on from a miracle major by teammate Beau McCreery a few minutes earlier.
The Blues had opportunities to grab back the lead but were denied by the Magpies’ steely defence, leaving Carlton players to slump to the ground in agony when the siren sounded.
The Magpies will enter the finals after winning 12 of their last 13 matches having kept their extraordinary record in close games alive.
After finishing 17th last season, fourth-placed Collingwood will have a double chance in the finals in Craig McRae’s first year as coach.
The Blues are left with serious heartbreak after being in the top-eight all season until the final day.
They kicked only two goals outside of their third-quarter burst.
The Blues started in nervous fashion and missed easy shots as Collingwood’s pressure overwhelmed them.
Carlton rebuilt, however, and their 8.3 return was the first time since the famous 1970 grand final they had kicked eight goals in a third quarter against Collingwood at the MCG, but it was ultimately not enough.
Blues captain Patrick Cripps willed his team into the contest and was named best-on-ground, despite Carlton losing.
His stat line of 35 disposals and 12 clearances was impressive, but his courage was inspiring after waving away trainers following a big friendly-fire hit from Jack Silvagni.
The Blues were forced to win the sudden-death showdown without star midfielder Sam Walsh, who was a late withdrawal due to back soreness.
Bulldogs take down Hawks
The Bulldogs had kept themselves in the finals picture with a tense 23-point victory over Hawthorn in Launceston.
Coming into the final-round clash needing a win to have a chance of replacing Carlton in eighth spot, the Bulldogs trailed by 12 points at quarter-time but came home with a wet sail.
The 12.15 (87) to 10.4 (64) result put the Bulldogs level on 48 competition points with Carlton but ahead on the ladder on percentage.
Roarke Smith picked up three goals for the Bulldogs, including two crucial scores in the final quarter to give his side breathing space.
Aaron Naughton also kicked three while rookie Sam Darcy was ultra impressive, kicking two majors including his first at the top level.
Dylan Moore gave Hawthorn the best possible start in the final quarter with a goal inside the first minute to reduce the margin to just four points.
But the Bulldogs rallied, keeping their opposition to just nine points for the term.
The Bulldogs dominated clearances (49-22) and inside 50s (71-39) but struggled to translate the possession to points at a blustery University of Tasmania Stadium.
In his final match for the Hawks, dual-premiership winner Ben McEvoy notched two goals, including the opener when he was fed a handpass from the first touch of debutant Jack Saunders.
Jack Gunston kicked four for Hawthorn, while James Sicily was outstanding with a match-high 33 possessions.
The Bulldogs dominated territory early and kicked the opening two goals before Hawthorn went on a run of four goals with the breeze for a 12-point lead at quarter-time.
Gunston chipped in with two majors for the quarter, including an impressive snap after pinching the ball in traffic.
In a pulsating second quarter, Darcy got his side back in front with back-to-back goals in the space of a few minutes.
Hawthorn kept pace, responding when Saunders slotted his maiden major, before Bulldog Cody Weightman got his team’s nose in front by three points at the main break.
The Bulldogs dominated inside 50s in a low-scoring third quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the last break in front of a crowd of 13,105.
St Kilda vs Sydney
Source: AFL NEWS ABC