Collingwood survived a fierce challenge from the Western Bulldogs to win an absorbing AFL match by 21 points at Etihad Stadium.
The Magpies took full toll of several Bulldogs turnovers in the last term to win 15.8 (98) to 11.11 (77) on Friday night.
Midfielders Dayne Beams starred for the ‘Pies with 33 disposals, while defender Alan Toovey was superb with his work on in-form Bulldogs small forward Luke Dahlhaus.
Collingwood midfielder Scott Pendlebury was also prolific and was awarded best afield.
Bulldogs onballer Ryan Griffen led his team with 33 possessions and eight clearances.
Collingwood fans were furious with the umpires after a free-kick count that went the Bulldogs’ way 21-10, including 9-0 at the start of the match.
The ‘Dogs were trailing by eight points midway through the final term when two mistakes from Shaun Higgins – one with a kick to goal and the second at the other end shortly after – meant Harry O’Brien kicked a vital goal for the Magpies.
Sharrod Wellingham kicked the sealer soon after after a turnover from Bulldogs defender Dylan Addison.
But the Bulldogs were outstanding with their intensity and they set up well against Collingwood.
Their biggest problem – again – was the lack of a big-marked key forward.
When Collingwood kicked the opening goal of the third term, they had an ominous nine-point lead.
But Daniel Giansiracusa then kicked two straight to give his side the lead again.
The game continued to see-saw through the third quarter, with four lead changes.
Bulldogs defender Ryan Hargrave marked and goalled to reduce the margin to one point at three quarter-time.
In a major blow to the ‘Dogs, defender Easton Wood hobbled off with a hamstring injury in the third term after he had been one of their best.
Earlier, Collingwood had withstood a strong challenge from the Western Bulldogs to kick the last three goals of the second term and lead by three points at the main break.
Star Collingwood midfielder Dane Swan, who had an absorbing battle all night with Bulldogs tagger Liam Picken, ran through a stoppage brilliantly to kick a goal late in the second quarter.
Collingwood utility Ben Johnson left the field with a shoulder injury in the second term and did not reappear.
The game appeared to be going the Bulldogs’ way when Giansiracusa soccered through a goal at 17 minutes in the second term after a series of 50-50 balls that went their way.
But it proved their last score of the half as Collingwood kicked three goals and regained the lead.
Collingwood’s Darren Jolly was a late withdrawal with a groin injury and Cameron Wood, who took his place, rucked for nearly the whole game.
Buckley said there was still plenty of room for improvement in his team, but he was pleased with how they responded to the Bulldogs’ challenge.
“The Bulldogs were true to their form in the last couple of weeks, they love to outnumber at the contest, they work very hard for each other,” Buckley said.
“It took a while for us to adjust and eventually it was a good performance to do and grind the win out.”
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney was encouraged by his team’s endeavour and said he had no problem with the last-quarter turnovers, given the players were trying so hard to set up scoring chances.
But ultimately, he said the ‘Dogs had not kept the Magpies on the back foot for long enough.
“It wasn’t a frustrating night, it was disappointing for our club to lose a game we’d done a lot right in,” he said.
“It was a combination of things, we made some errors but every team makes them.
“We felt we just didn’t smash in aggressively enough for long enough and the contested ball count got out of control in the last quarter.
“We’ve got to become a club and will become a club that is physical and fights to the death.”