GOLDEN Square answered a spirited challenge from South Bendigo to win Saturday's Bendigo Football League clash on the QEO by 25 points.
South's play belied its last-place and season record of 1-9 as it took right up to the Bulldogs.
The Bloods started superbly and led 4.2 (26) to 1.8 (14) after an opening quarter in which Jayke Barrack (2), Josh Whelan and Ben Jones were on target.
Golden Square seized control in the second term.
A back pocket for most of his brilliant career with the Bulldogs, Clayton Anderson is a contender for goal of the year after a running shot from the boundary in the Rifle Brigade Hotel pocket at the city end went through.
Anderson soon showed that was no fluke as he goaled from an acute goal on the other side of the goal.
The classy Corey Jones and Jack Geary were also on target as Square gained a 19-point lead by half-time.
South refused to give up in the third quarter.
Goals by Kieran Strachan and captain Aaron Connaughton rewarded the Bloods' persistence and pressure.
Geary's goal on the run just seconds before the three quarter-time siren put the Dogs up by 12 points at a quarter to go.
Square added 4.7 to 3.0 in the final term.
After a head clash and cut above his eye, Geary sat out the final term.
Golden Square coach Nick Carter said the slippery conditions and hard-fought style of game was a great learning experience for a lot of the team's younger players.
"Full credit to South Bendigo for the way they kept at us all match," Carter said.
"Overall it was a gutsy win and character-building in tough conditions.
"We had lots of scoring shots, but at times our execution was poor."
A huge plus for Golden Square was the return of last season's premiership-winning coach and Hawthorn premiership player Rick Ladson.
"We were not expecting too much from Rick.
"It was great he was able to get some touches. His leadership and direction is fantastic for our team," said Carter.
Co-coach at South Bendigo, Neale Torpey said there was a lot to like about the Bloods performance.
After some big defeats the previous two rounds, South's defensive pressure was a key.
"Today was a really spirited performance," Torpey said.
"After some big defeats the boys showed a lot of character today, and showed they had learnt a lot, especially from last week's game against Sandhurst.
Torpey said defensive efforts were first priority.
"In the first half our defensive play was excellent. We had opportunities in the third quarter, but just didn't make the most of them."
The Bloods' best included Ben Allen in the ruck, onballer Daniel Frew, Adrian Coad, Kieran Strachan and Aaron Connaughton.