GOLD Coast has kept its finals hopes alive, overcoming a sluggish start to storm past Carlton by 27 points at a wet Metricon Stadium on Friday night.
The 6.6 (42) to 2.3 (15) victory moves the Suns to 20 premiership points, level with eighth-placed Western Bulldogs, but trailing on percentage.
The loss means finals are now out of reach for 11th-placed Carlton.
With its season on the line Gold Coast trailed by six points at half-time but turned up the heat after the main break, kicking three unanswered goals in a dominant third quarter to take control of the contest.
Kalinda Howarth was magnificent, kicking a goal just 25 seconds into the third, having a hand in another for Kaylee Kimber and easily looking the most dangerous forward in the tough conditions.
When captain Tara Bohanna kicked a goal early in the last quarter after earning a free kick, the match was over.
SUNS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
The Suns got on top around the contest the longer the night went, with Lauren Bella winning her dual against a hobbled Bree Moody (corked thigh), while Charlie Rowbottom (26 disposals, five clearances, six tackles) and Alison Drennan (24 disposals) also had major impacts.
Ellie Hampson was also instrumental in the win, as was the run of Claudia Whitfort.
Carlton dominated the match early but couldn't capitalise on its field position. Mimi Hill (23), Lucy McEvoy (24) and Vaomua Laloifi – who kicked her first career goal when swung forward in the dying stages – were the Blues' best.
Look no further than Kalinda Howarth. The dynamic Suns utility has often been used in defence this season, but coach Cameron Joyce decided tonight was the night 'Kindy' would be thrown forward and she proved the match-winner. Howarth was absolutely magnificent, playing one of her best games for the Suns in amassing 18 disposals, kicking a goal and adding an assist. Her clean hands and exquisite kicking shone in the tricky conditions.
The first blow
It took a while, but it was worth the wait. Ten minutes into the second quarter and in just her second career game, 19-year-old Poppy Schaap kicked the game's first goal after she took a clever mark and was able to convert the set shot from 25m. Schaap was originally a train-on player with Geelong before moving to the Blues prior to last season.
Gold Coast is still in the running to play finals but will be cheering for Carlton next Friday night when it hosts the Western Bulldogs at Ikon Park at 6.10pm AEDT. The Suns finish their season with a trip to Henson Park next Sunday to play Greater Western Sydney from 5.10pm AEDT.
GOLD COAST 0.0 0.3 3.4 6.6 (42)
CARLTON 0.1 1.3 1.3 2.3 (15)
Gold Coast: Jones 2, Howarth, Kimber, Bohanna, Meyer
Carlton: Schaap, Laloifi
Gold Coast: Howarth, Bella, Rowbottom, Drennan, Hampson, Whitfort, D'Arcy
Carlton: Hill, McEvoy, Laloifi, Peterson, Sherar
Gold Coast: Randall (shoulder)
Crowd: TBC at Metricon Stadium