The GWS Giants hopes of a fifth consecutive finals appearance have taken a massive hit after a heart-breaking five point loss to the Melbourne Demons at the Gabba on Saturday night.
The game ebbed and flowed throughout the night, but the Demons came out on top after kicking three goals to one in a tense final quarter to record a 12.7 (79) to 11.8 (74) victory.
It was also an important game for the Demons who needed a win to keep their finals hopes alive and they got off to a flying start, kicking the opening three goals to set up an early 18 point lead.
The Giants got going through goals to Daniel Lloyd and Harry Perryman, but the Demons hit straight back with another two goals of their own, including a superb snap from Christian Petracca.
Trailing by 17 points at quarter time, the Giants needed to respond in the second quarter and they did just that by kicking five goals to two for the term to tie the game up at 47 a piece heading into half time.
Brent Daniels was looking lovely in the forward half while inclusions Tom Green and Josh Kelly were leading the way in the midfield without their skipper Stephen Coniglio who was sensationally dropped for this match.
The Demons kicked the first goal of the second half, but the Giants then seized momentum with three straight goals to set up a 12 point lead, their biggest of the night.
However, much like the rest of the night, once a team looked to get on the top, the other side responded and Christian Salem kicked a much needed goal late in the quarter to reduce the margin to just 7 points at three quarter time.
The Demons started the last quarter on top and were rewarded with a goal to Charlie Spargo to bring them to within one point and they soon had a four point lead lead after Bayley Fritsch calmly slotted a set shot.
The ball continued to live in the Giants backline and with just under three minutes remaining, 19-year-old Demon Trent Rivers kicked a wobbly, floating snap on his left foot to extend the Demons lead to 11 points.
Daniels kicked his third goal of the night to bring the margin back to 5 points to set up a nervous final 33 seconds for Demons fans, but they managed to hold on for a famous victory.
The win sees the Demons leapfrog the Giants on the ladder into eighth spot, but the Western Bulldogs can push them out of the top eight with a victory over the Hawthorn Hawks on Sunday.
The loss means the Giants will need to defeat the St Kilda Saints in the final round and will need other results to go their way if they are to play finals this season.
The biggest talking point all week was the Giants decision to drop Coniglio. It was a bold statement from Leon Cameron and the Giants selection committee but it has divided opinion with Fremantle coach Ross Lyon claiming the Giants “humiliated” their captain while Cameron Ling said they would’ve loved to have their captain out there in the dying stages of the match.
It remains to be seen whether or not he comes back into the team for their must win clash against the Saints next week, but considering they couldn’t get the job done without him, there are surely other Giants who deserve to make way for Coniglio.