Collingwood have survived a massive fright against winless Geelong on Friday night to emerge from GMHBA Stadium with a hard-fought 11-point AFLW win.
The Cats were rank outsiders heading into the contest, but paid little regard to the Magpies' status as one of the premiership favourites.
For the third week in a row Geelong made life very tough for their opponents, but yet again, their lack of polish in attack cost them dearly, and when Julia Crockett-Grills gifted Collingwood star Chloe Molloy a goal from a 50m penalty, it proved a match-deciding moment.
Three minutes later, Geelong's last chance at a win went up in smoke when Georgie Rankin missed a shot on goal from directly in front, as the more efficient Magpies ran out 5.5 (35) to 3.6 (24) winners to extend their undefeated start to the year to three matches.
"They (Geelong) are one of the most contested teams and you can never undermine (sic) them," Molloy told Fox Footy after returning to the Collingwood line-up following a week in isolation after catching COVID.
"They're a team that just nip at you the whole time, they made it a dirty game, we saw the contest that was there so they're a ripper team and they really gave it to us.
"Coming back from COVID, the lungs felt it a bit ... Honestly I reckon I suffered more from FOMO (fear of missing out) than COVID but it's just what we're living with at the minute and I've done my seven days, it's kind of a bit of a stress off."
For all their hard work so far this season, and despite regaining the services of big guns Nina Morrison, Sophie Van De Heuvel, Crockett-Grills and Rankin, who all sat out last round due to COVID protocols, Geelong (0-3) remain winless. They have now lost 12 of their last 13 games, having only won six of 25 matches since entering the competition in 2019.
Collingwood's Jaimee Lambert was opposed Georgie Prespakis (11 disposals) for most of the night in the midfield, and towelled up the Geelong young gun as she helped herself to a game-high 21 touches (12 contested), nine clearances and seven tackles to be the standout.
Amy McDonald shone for the Cats with 20 disposals (12 contested) and 12 tackles.
Geelong enjoyed a three-point lead early in the second quarter but after the Magpies' Sophie Alexander and Molloy missed a couple of straightforward set shots, Eliza James and Alexander combined to put the Magpies up by 12 points midway through the term.
Kate Darby cut the deficit to a goal before halftime and could've levelled things up early in the third stanza, but dropped a chest mark in the goal square.
The Cats ramped up the pressure again after the major break but for all their effort just couldn't get their noses in front and after the Pies kept them at bay, Molloy rewarded the visitors by giving them an 11-point buffer just before three-quarter time.
Geelong came hard again in the final term but the hosts' dreams of a famous upset win were dashed when Molloy booted her second major.
Australian Associated Press