It was the greatest comeback of the year and then the great escape all rolled into one for Fremantle on Saturday.
Trailing by 37 points to St Kilda early in the second term, Fremantle completely flipped the script to lead by 19 points in the final quarter after kicking 10 of the next 11 goals.
Then with majors to Tim Membrey, Jade Gresham and Zak Jones – courtesy of a Michael Walters 50m penalty – the Saints scrapped to level the scores with two minutes play.
With captain Nat Fyfe positioned in the goalsquare, Freo won a crucial ball at half-back, going the length of the field to find Lachie Schultz 35m out.
In scenes reminiscent to his coach Justin Longmuir's match-winner against the Saints in 2005, Schultz converted before the Dockers held their nerve in the final minute to win 12.7 (79) to 11.7 (73) at Metricon Stadium.
The Saints looked set to run away with a demolition, their slick ball movement and high intensity play on show to kick seven goals in the first term alone against Fremantle side on their last day of five weeks in the Queensland hub.
Longmuir's side then flicked the ignition at quarter-time, led by Walters (26 disposals) to bridge the margin to 13 points at the main break.
Without Hayden Young (ankle) and Sean Darcy, who was wiped out with concussion after a heavy hit from Saint Ben Long, Freo’s possession game got them back in the contest with just two rotations.
After Walters' heroics, he almost cost the result after entering the five-metre exclusion zone around Jones late in the contest.
However, he made up for his efforts winning a crucial ball in the dying stages as the Dockers held on for a famous win.
Sonny's early costly blunder
The early jump looked to have caught Fremantle star Michael Walters out. With the match starting 70 minutes earlier than the usual early Saturday afternoon fixture to help Fremantle fly back to Perth on the same day, Walters kicked the ball the wrong way out of the first centre bounce. Freo Docker Darcy Tucker was pinged holding the ball at half-back before teammate Nathan Wilson kicked the ball away in anger to concede an easy 50m penalty. It gave the Saints their first of seven for the opening term, showing no signs of the three-hour bus ride from their hub in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
Defender in Match Review strife
St Kilda's Ben Long will be sweating on the outcome of Michael Christian's Match Review findings on Sunday. The defender was put on report for a head-high bump on Sean Darcy that left the Fremantle ruckman concussed and ruled out for the match. Long had no great intention to go after the ball, instead collecting Darcy to the face as he attempted to gather. Given the outcome and impact of the bump, it would be hard to see Long playing next week.
Fyfe the forward
After single-handedly keeping Fremantle afloat in the first quarter, Nat Fyfe spent the majority of the rest of the match deep in attack in his first game back from a hamstring injury. The skipper kicked two crucial goals, including one in the final term to put the Dockers 19 points up. Despite several important centre clearances in the final term, Fyfe remained anchored to the goalsquare.
FREMANTLE 1.2 6.4 9.7 12.7 (79)
ST KILDA 7.2 8.5 8.5 11.7 (73)
Fremantle: Taberner 2, Fyfe 2, Schultz 2, Darcy, Lobb, Bewley, Tucker, Serong, Banfield
St Kilda: Membrey 3, Jones 2, Billings, Kent, Butler, Lonie, King, Gresham
Fremantle: Walters, Brayshaw, Taberner, Fyfe, Lobb, Tucker
St Kilda: Steele, Membrey, Billings, Jones, Battle
Fremantle: Young (ankle), Darcy (concussion), Cox (hip) replaced in selected side by Duman.
St Kilda: Nil