HUNTLY denied Heathcote its first win of the Heathcote District Football League season on Saturday after defeating the Saints by one goal.
The Saints had copped four 10 goal-plus hidings in a row, but served it right up to last year's grand finalists at Prendergast Oval.
However, it was the Hawks who made more of their chances in front of goal to win 14.8 (92) to 12.14 (86) to register their second win in a row and move into the top five.
The Hawks opened a 21-point lead at quarter-time, 5.1 to 1.4, as they got the jump on their opposition for the second week in a row.
The Saints lifted in the second term, kicking six goals to three and at half-time were back within three points, setting up a thrilling second half where the Hawks were finally on the positive end of a close result.
Of the three losses the Hawks have suffered this season, two have been by 10 points or less.
"It was a really tough game... Heathcote definitely came to play and took it up to us all day," Hawks coach Stacy Fiske said.
"From our point of view, it was good to win one of those tight games after losing close games to Mount Pleasant and White Hills earlier in the year.
"Today has shown that we can win those tight, tough games and we'll use that going forward."
Captain Braidy Dickens was again brilliant for the Hawks through the midfield as his ripping start to 2014 continued.
"He has got himself really fit and with those silky skills of his, he has stepped up this year," Fiske said.
Ryley Dickens across half-back, midfielder Ryan Harris and impressive youngster Harry Whittle were also strong performers for the Hawks, who had key forward Lachlan O'Toole kick five goals for the second week in a row.
The six-point loss was the Saints' fifth defeat in a row, with Heathcote's cause not helped by injuries to Luke Bell, Nathan Bake and Josh Illarietti.
"We basically played the second half with only one on the bench, and those three who went down for us had all been playing well, so that hurt us," Heathcote coach Grant Ford said.
"But the boys showed today that if they put their mind to it, they can compete with any side and if we can get somewhere near our best team on the park, we think we can still be in the hunt."
Ruckman Daniel Russell (two goals), Daniel Carroll, gun wingman Darcy McLean and Marc Millard were the best for the Saints, whose score of 86 was their highest for the season.
• Lockington-Bamawm United disposed of another top-three side for the second week in a row, beating Mount Pleasant by 63 points at home.
The Cats, with five changes from the previous week, turned a 28-point lead at half-time into a 16.19 (115) to 7.10 (52) victory in what was their 20th win in a row dating back to round four last season.
"Last week (against Leitchville-Gunbower) was a really tough game, but I was pleased the boys turned up again ready to play and had another good win," Cats coach Adrian Dohnt said.
The Cats led by five points at quarter-time, but asserted their authority on the contest during the second term when they added 4.7 to 1.2.
The three-time defending premiers carried their momentum into the second half when they kicked nine goals to four to beat the Blues for the 14th time in a row.
Half-forward Ryan Jensen kicked four goals to be the Cats' best player.
Simon Keleher was again outstanding across half-back for the Cats, and in the 40 matches he has played for the club since joining in 2012 was named in the best for the 22nd time.
Centreman Paul Hudson and in-form tall Chris Hudson were also damaging, while Matthew Deledio and Lachlan Collins kicked three goals each.
Mount Pleasant suffered a major blow when star full-forward Matt Gretgrix injured an ankle in the first 10 minutes, which will keep him out of the HDFL inter-league team later this month.
"It's probably a three or four-week injury, which is disappointing," Blues coach Derrick Filo said.
"We had a few more go down in Carl Thiesz, Nick Butler and Joe Whiting, so we had no rotations after about 10 minutes into the second quarter. We battled away, but in the end, weight of numbers got us and it blew the scoreline out."
In what was the Blues' second loss of the season, Jarrod Findlay, Tim Hill, Koe Ngawati and Taig Griffin played well.
• Colbinabbin continues to prove a tipsters nightmare after the Grasshoppers defeated White Hills by 17 points, 13.10 (88) to 10.11 (71), at M.J. Morgan Oval.
It was a crunch match for the Grasshoppers, who would have dropped two games outside the top five with a loss.
The Grasshoppers made their match-winning move when they added 4.2 to 2.3 in the third term to turn a seven-point half-time lead into an 18-point advantage at the final change.
"It was a really good response from the boys to last week (52-point loss to Huntly) where we probably started doubting are we any good or are we just making up the numbers," Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.
"It was important for us to bounce back today and we were able to do that.
"The best thing today was our four-quarter pressure, which had been lacking over the past couple of weeks."
The Grasshoppers are now 2-4 and only percentage outside the top five, with bottom two sides Heathcote and Elmore to come in their next two games after the bye.
"Had we lost today our season could have just about been shot, but now we're back in the hunt and it reinforces that we're a good side, which we believe we are," Morgan said.
Alex Van Ruiswyk was super for the Grasshoppers with five goals and was named their best player.
Tim Holobowski, David Price and Lochlan Sirett (three goals) were also influential for the Grasshoppers, who for the fourth game in a row against White Hills beat the Demons by less than 20 points.
The loss cost the Demons their position in the top five and ended their two-game winning streak.
Ben Gardner, Malcolm Douglas, Sam Kerr and Caillum Brady were the pick of the players for the Demons, who had Jake Ward kick four goals in his return from injury.
• North Bendigo blew Elmore away late to win by 72 points.
The Bloods closed to within 13 points early in the last term after they had trailed by 26 points at three quarter-time.
However, the Bulldogs responded to the Bloods' challenge, finishing with a 10-goal blitz to blow the margin out and win 23.23 (161) to 14.5 (89) at Elmore.
While the Bulldogs finished strongly, they suffered a major blow in the opening minutes when boom recruit Darcy Richards suffered a dislocated shoulder.
"We kicked inaccurate again today, but credit to Elmore... everytime they went forward they seemed to kick a goal, so they took their chances," North Bendigo co-coach Rob Bennett said.
"We probably only played two good quarters of footy (second and last) and won by 12 goals, so we'll take both positives and negatives out of it, but we're obviously really happy with the way we finished off."
Midfielder Tyson Findlay (two goals) was the best player for the Bulldogs. Jordan Ford, Aarryn Craig and Elliott Massina (three goals) were also influential, while Jeremy Mills kicked five goals, with most coming in the final term.
Elmore is still winless and on the bottom of the ladder, but in its past two games has improved its scoring, kicking 27 goals.
James Harney, Jeff McMurtrie, Jack Hayes and Darren Turner (two goals) were the better players for the Bloods, who started well to lead by seven points at quarter-time.
"We were fairly happy with the effort, but we just ran out of legs late and they kicked away. We're getting there, though," Elmore coach Stephen Arthur said.