The Western Bulldogs have been knocked out of the 2020 AFL premiership after suffering a thrilling 10.7 (67) to 9.10 (64) defeat to St Kilda on Saturday afternoon.
Having not played in an AFL finals series for nine years, the Saints now find themselves preparing for a semi-final contest against the defending premiers.
The Bulldogs had not registered a victory at the Gabba all season, and were outclassed by Brett Ratten’s men in the first elimination final.
Watch the 2020 Toyota AFL Finals Series on Kayo with every game before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
But Saints midfielder Ben Long could find himself in trouble with the MRO after a late bump on Bulldogs star Jack Macrae.
Early in the first quarter, Long collided with Macrae after a centre bounce, his shoulder making contact with the All-Australian’s head, who was gathering the ball.
Former Port Adelaide star Dwayne Russell told AFL Nation: “It’s worse the more you see it.”
LIVE SCORES: AFL finals match centres
Thankfully, Macrae returned to his feet after the hit and played on, which three-time premiership player Jimmy Bartel believes will help Long avoid suspension.
“He’s very lucky Macrae got back up. That’s MRO otherwise,” Bartel said on Channel 7.
“Impact is one of the boxes that needs to be ticked, and the fact Macrae got backed up and kept playing (should help).”
The Age journalist Daniel Cherny tweeted: “Ben Long is on maniac watch here.”
Earlier this year, Long copped a three-match suspension after a bump on Sean Darcy left the Fremantle ruckman concussed.
Josh Bruce got the Western Bulldogs off to the perfect start, executing a right-foot snap to snare the opening goal of the match, celebrating wildly in front of his former teammates.
Playing in his first finals match, Saints forward Max King snared two goals in the first half to give his club an early lead in Brisbane.
Hawthorn legend Dermott Brereton told Fox Footy: “If Max King isn’t on $1 million within two years time … he’s the reason why the Saints are still in this.
“He’s changed the game; he’s taken four contested marks.”
Brisbane Lions great Alastair Lynch added: “King looks like he’s the major difference in the game. If he can (keep) marking the ball inside the forward 50 … that is a big advantage for the Saints.”
Four-time premiership player Leigh Matthews told 3AW: “Max King looks so much better today than I have seen him all year.”
Sports journalist Luke D’Anello tweeted: “Genuinely scary how good Max King could be. Saints fans must be pumped.”
READ MORE: AFL star apologises to angry footy fans
READ MORE: Social media goes wild over Ash Barty
The match was seemingly decided when the deficit increased to 24 points at three-quarter time, Saints steaming towards a comfortable victory.
But a stunning resurgence from the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter left spectators at the edge of their seat — the Dogs kicked three unanswered goals in the closing 10 minutes to reduce the margin to just three points.
The final minutes were agonising for both clubs, but the Saints managed to hang on and win the thrilling contest.
St Kilda will take on Richmond in next weekend’s semi-final — the two clubs have not met in a finals match since 1973.