A NICK Holman goal with three seconds left on the clock has denied the Bendigo Gold their first win as a stand-alone VFL club.
The Gold had led the Carlton-aligned Northern Blues from the 11 minute mark of the final term, but fell agonisingly short.
The Gold led by one point before a scrambled kick forward found Holman 20m out on a slight angle.
He kicked truly to give the Blues a 14.11 (95) to 14.6 (90) victory.
After the final siren sounded Gold players slumped to the ground in despair as their best chance to break their duck slipped through their fingers.
"To get that close is disappointing, but the overriding emotion for me is pride,'' Gold coach Aussie Jones said.
"I've been around footy for a long time and the courage this group shows every week at training and on game day amazes me.
"We don't get too many opportunities like that and it showed in the dying minutes that we probably didn't know how to win.
"We probably rushed a couple of times when we should have played some tempo footy. That's a sign of the inexperience of not being in that position often enough.
"One scrappy kick at the end and it lands on the chest of one of their players... that's footy."
The Gold had led by as many as eight points midway through the final quarter, but couldn't land the knockout blow.
The Blues switched full-back Matt Watson to the forward line and his goal cut the margin to two points with five minutes left on the clock.
The Gold locked the ball inside their forward 50 for the next two minutes, but couldn't score.
The Blues swept the ball forward and Jeff Garlett marked on the lead.
Garlett, who was held all day by Jesse Wallin, missed his set shot from 45m out to make the margin one point.
The final two minutes was stoppage after stoppage.
The Gold flooded numbers back and looked set to withstand the Blues' pressure until Holman happened to be in the right place at the right time for his side.
The Gold went within one kick of causing the upset of the VFL season despite being without full forward Tyrone Downie (corked thigh), while big man Joe Redfern (ankle) left the ground early in the second term and didn't return.
The players set a club record mark of 116 tackles and won the contested ball 163-119.
"We did a lot of things right today,'' Jones said.
"We nailed the contested ball and we set ourselves a target of 88 tackles, so to get 116 was a huge effort.
"The area that cost us was our ball use inside 50."
With the Gold's tall forwards ineffective, skipper Steven Stroobants and midfielders Daniel Toman and Alik Magin stepped up to his the scoreboard.
Stroobants became the first player since the Gold went stand-alone to kick five goals in a match.
Toman and Magin added three goals each, with Magin putting his hand up for mark and goal of the year honours.
In the third quarter the former Gold Coast Sun climbed high over Northern Blues' Paul Dirago to take a mark that was similar to the hanger taken by Essendon's Gary Moorcroft over the top of Brad Johnson in 2001.
Then in the final quarter, Magin swooped on a loose ball in the South Bendigo forward pocket and kicked a left-foot dribbler from the boundary line for a goal.
Wallin's job on Garlett was superb. The under-rated Gold stopper restricted the livewire forward to a handful of kicks and two goals.
Key defender Grant Valles was solid all day, midfielder Jake Aarts played his best game for some time and ruckman Jeremy Lambden competed well against the odds.