GOLD Coast has returned to the winners list this week, hanging on in dramatic fashion to beat the Western Bulldogs by seven points at TIO Stadium in Darwin on Saturday night.
After leading by 22 points early in the final term, the SUNS watched their advantage whittle down to a solitary point before young gun Bailey Humphrey sealed the four points with a moment of genius.
Humphrey's brilliant finish from the right forward pocket with less than two minutes remaining put an exclamation point on the 13.6 (84) to 11.11 (77) victory.
It not only drew the SUNS' season ledger back to 5-6, but also put an end to the Bulldogs' five-game winning streak.
On a night that became increasingly slippery in the warm conditions, Matt Rowell played out of his skin to lead the SUNS home.
The former No.1 draft pick finished with 29 disposals, 16 clearances – 11 of which came in the second half – and a terrific fourth-quarter goal to cap his night.
When the Bulldogs charged in the third term, it was often Rowell holding back the tide with his ferocious play in tight.
Charlie Ballard and Sam Collins, along with hometown boy Ben Long, were immense in defence, holding back an onslaught of inside 50s (65-48 to the Dogs).
The Bulldogs will rue their inability to cash in with so many forward forays, with wayward kicking in the first half costing them dearly.
Liam Jones was impassable in defence, winning 13 intercept possessions, while skipper Marcus Bontempelli (28, nine clearances and 10 tackles) did all he could.
Anthony Scott opened the scoring, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan crunched Wil Powell to win a free kick for incorrect disposal and subsequently goaled, and when Bailey Williams kicked their third inside 10 minutes, the match looked like getting out of hand early.
But the SUNS battled back, slowly winning contests and getting their fair share of territory to trail by just two points at the first change.
The second quarter had to be seen to be believed.
Jack Lukosius kicked all four Gold Coast goals from limited inside 50s, while the Bulldogs had the ball camped in their front half, but just could not find the goals.
From 20 entries they could muster just two behinds, as Ugle-Hagan (twice) and Rory Lobb caught the wayward goalkicking bug that Aaron Naughton (also twice) had started in the first quarter.
Lukosius kicks four in a quarter
Jack Lukosius had a second quarter he won't forget in a hurry, kicking all four of Gold Coast's goals to flip the momentum of the game. The first three were all akin to basketball slam dunks as the former No.3 draft pick was the beneficiary of good work further afield and finished off from within the goalsquare. His third goal was a memorable one, meeting the ball perfectly for a mid-air volley from close range after a perfect Ben Ainsworth centring kick. Lukosius' fourth for the term came after marking on the lead and executing a perfect drop punt from 35m.
The Bailey Williams goal from the Ainsworth 50m penalty
It was an incident that gave the Bulldogs life and will be scrutinised heavily in coming days. With Gold Coast leading by in excess of three goals, Bailey Williams took an intercept mark around 70m from goal. Ben Ainsworth stood – what he thought was – the mark, only to be whistled instantly for a 50m penalty. Williams duly converted, and when Ugle-Hagan and Cody Weightman goaled minutes later, it was just a one-point game.
Holman's heroics in his 100th
Nick Holman has had a tougher road than most to reach the 100-game milestone and it was almost guaranteed the tough-nut forward would have an impact one way or another. Right on the quarter-time siren he got his moment, grasping a Charlie Ballard kick and going back to splits the sticks from 35m to be mobbed by every one of his teammates. Holman applied his customary ferocious pressure without the ball, finishing with 10 tackles, and adding a classy second goal in the third quarter to cap the perfect night.
GOLD COAST 4.1 8.3 11.5 13.6 (84)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.3 4.5 8.6 11.11 (77)
Gold Coast: Lukosius 5, King 2, Holman 2, Swallow, Humphrey, Rowell, Ainsworth
Western Bulldogs: Ugle-Hagan 3, Williams 2, Weightman 2, Smith, Scott, Naugton, Daniel
Gold Coast: Rowell, Ballard, Anderson, Collins, Humphrey, Lukosius
Western Bulldogs: Jones, Bontempelli, Macrae, Dale, Gardner, Daniel
Gold Coast: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Gold Coast: Jy Farrar (replaced Rory Atkins in the fourth quarter)
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Hannan (replaced Lachie McNeil in the fourth quarter)
Crowd: 9316 at TIO Stadium