ST KILDA has clung on in a frantic final few minutes to record its third win for the season, defeating Port Adelaide by two points.
The Saints snapped a six-match losing streak in the process, with inaccuracy and a scoreless last quarter very nearly costing them in the 4.11 (35) to 5.3 (33) victory.
SAINTS V POWER Full match coverage and stats
With just four points the difference at the final break, it took nearly seven minutes for the first score – a Jade De Melo behind – and the Power had more than a few chances to slot the one crucial goal they needed to hit the front, but just fell short in a heartbreaking loss.
St Kilda had controlled most of the play in the first quarter, peppering the goals (including defender Lucy Burke's first) but struggling for accuracy, booting 2.6.
Port Adelaide had just four inside 50s in the first term but scored three times, highlighting a worrying trend for St Kilda's under-strength defence that would last throughout the game.
The visitors had a purple patch in the second quarter, breaking through to take the lead via a crisp Lily Johnson goal on the run late on to lead by 12 points at the main break.
The Saints responded, controlling play out of the middle to produce two quick goals, but once again, inaccuracy was a serious issue, with a lot of their behinds coming from snap shots.
Injury-cursed Liv Vesely's day finished in the second term with concussion after an accidental head knock with teammate Tarni White, who got away with a blood nose and a new jumper number in 41.
The Saints had a slight advantage in contested possessions and the Power in hitouts, but other than that, it was a remarkably even game when it came to disposals, clearances, inside 50s and even free kicks.
Restructured St Kilda forward line delivers the goods
After last week's stint in the ruck, the return of Simone Nalder allowed Lucy Burke to sit in an unfamiliar role up forward, where she formed a three-prong attack with Kate Shierlaw and Caitlin Greiser. In response Nic Stevens played in defence, a move that was particularly important when Hannah Priest was needed in the middle after Vesely's concussion. The Saints struggled to find the middle, but had plenty of scoring shots.
Erin Phillips the ruck
In the continued absence of Liz McGrath, Port Adelaide turned to an unlikely second ruck to support Olivia Levicki, calling on champion Erin Phillips. The forward/midfielder added another string to her bow, contesting hitouts not just inside 50 but around the ground, where her mobility at ground level made her a constant threat.
"There are moments where you feel like you have some control, then there's a lot of moments where it's up to the players to do the best they could possibly do. It's clear we're on a journey, we're a young group that's evolving from week to week. I was really pleased with some individuals today who took some huge steps forward. And even in those last five minutes - structurally (it was) not ideal, contest structure not ideal - but they just found a way." – St Kilda coach Nick Dal Santo
"It's disappointing. There were definitely opportunities in that last quarter, but we let up too much score for the Saints and didn't create enough for ourselves. Saints were the better team on the day." – Port Adelaide coach Lauren Arnell
St Kilda finishes it season with one of the toughest tasks around, taking on Adelaide at RSEA Park, while Port Adelaide will face fellow expansion side Essendon at Alberton Oval.
ST KILDA 2.6 2.7 4.11 4.11 (35)
PORT ADELAIDE 2.1 5.1 5.1 5.3 (33)
St Kilda: L.Burke, Shierlaw, Guttridge, Stuart
Port Adelaide: Ewings, De Melo, Surman, Johnson, Houghton
St Kilda: Priest, Patrikos, Dillon, McDonald, Shierlaw
Port Adelaide: Ewings, Phillips, Moloney, Levicki, Foley
St Kilda: Vesely (concussion)
Port Adelaide: Nil