GOLD Coast has thrust itself into the finals picture, winning a wildly fluctuating game at Darwin's TIO Stadium by 25 points on Saturday night.
After trailing by 35 points midway through the second quarter, the SUNS rallied for one of their greatest wins, a 16.16 (112) to 13.9 (87) triumph that takes their win-loss record to 6-6 and only percentage outside the top eight.
But that tells only part of the story.
Led by five goals from Jack Lukosius, a huge third quarter from Matt Rowell, another relentless Noah Anderson performance (28 and two goals) and a great shutdown job by Ben Long on Izak Rankine, Gold Coast made it two from two in the Top End in the past week.
The momentum changed prior to half-time when Lukosius, Anderson and Bailey Humphrey, who again excelled, kicked goals to peg the margin back to 17 points.
The SUNS then slammed on the first six goals of the third quarter – to make it a total of nine in a row – to get out to a 21-point advantage as Rowell won clearance after clearance and Lukosius and Ben King (three goals for the night) got to work.
But the Crows weren't done, taking the lead back early in the final quarter before Gold Coast closed the door once and for all.
It was another mature victory, built on the back of contested possession dominance (174-136) and ability to apply pressure to the slick Crows ball-users after the first quarter.
Adelaide was hindered by the early loss of Tom Doedee to a knee injury, forcing it into a defensive change-up it struggled to overcome.
Lukosius was a handful whether it was Mitch Hinge or Nick Murray on him, while King worked his way into the match after Jordon Butts held the early ascendency.
Adelaide raced out to its big lead on the back of swift ball movement and efficiency going inside forward 50.
The Crows kicked five consecutive goals in the first quarter, the best of which came via some Luke Pedlar brilliance in which he smothered a Rowell clearing kick, regathered and dribbled the ball through from 30m on his left foot.
Rory Laird was leading the midfield charge as the visitors pressured Gold Coast into a number of hurried kicks they were able to rebound and send back into attack with interest.
When Wayne Milera finished a sweeping movement that saw the ball transition from the back pocket without hitting the ground to his fluent finish on the run from 45m, the Crows led by 35 points early in the second quarter.
That's when the SUNS' intensity lifted as they battled back into the match.
Humphrey's right-foot snap before half-time, after bursting through an attempted Nick Murray tackle, was a team-lifter and showed why Gold Coast was happy to extend his current contract until the end of 2028 this week.
Izak Rankine v Ben Long
It was always likely to be one of the pivotal match-ups and it proved that way. In his first game against Gold Coast since leaving during the off-season, Izak Rankine was kept goalless for the first time in 2023 by Ben Long. The former Saint wore Rankine like a glove, keeping him without a disposal in the first quarter and to just 13, and two behinds, for the night. Rankine moved up around the ball as the match wore on to try and have a greater influence, but it rarely worked, as Long played his second terrific game in succession in his hometown.
Doedee's knee injury
Adelaide lost key defender Tom Doedee in the opening minutes after he landed awkwardly following a marking contest with Levi Casboult. The 26-year-old left the field and tried his hardest to return, undergoing a number of tests on the boundary line before being ruled out for the night with a right knee injury. It's the opposite knee to the one Doedee ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament on in 2019.
Rowell's game-changing third term
For the second game in a row, Matt Rowell totally took over after half-time. The former No.1 draft pick had just four disposals at the break, but took it upon himself to lift the SUNS back into the match. He gathered eight disposals in the third quarter, five of which were clearances, and kicked a magnificent set shot from 45 to give Gold Coast the lead. Rowell even did it at the other end of the ground as well, diving full length to touch a Ben Keays shot at goal on the line for a rushed behind. Rowell finished with 15 disposals, 10 clearances and eight tackles and had a huge influence.
GOLD COAST 2.4 5.5 11.10 16.16 (112)
ADELAIDE 6.1 8.4 11.6 13.9 (87)
Gold Coast: Lukosius 5, King 3, Humphrey 2, Anderson 2, Casboult 2, Rowell, Jeffrey
Adelaide: Fogarty 3, Walker 2, Keays 2, Rachele, Pedlar, O'Brien, Murphy, Milera, Dawson
Gold Coast: Lukosius, Anderson, Humphrey, Rowell, Long, Jeffrey
Adelaide: Keays, Dawson, Milera, Laird, Fogarty
Gold Coast: Nil
Adelaide: Doedee (knee)
Gold Coast: Bodhi Uwland (replaced Tom Berry in the fourth quarter)
Adelaide: Ned McHenry (replaced Tom Doedee in the first quarter)
Crowd: 10,772 at TIO Stadium