South Bendigo went within one point of ending a 10-year losing streak against BFNL power Strathfieldsaye at the QEO on Saturday.
Playing without two of their best players in Cooper Leon and Liam Byrne, the brave Bloods pushed the Storm to the final siren, but went down 12.18 (90) to 13.11 (89).
Kaiden Antonowicz snapped a goal to cut the Storm lead from seven points to one point at the 26-minute mark of the final term.
However, it proved to be the final kick of the match. The siren sounded straight after the ball was thrown up in the middle of the ground and the Storm stretched their unbeaten run against the Bloods to 18 games.
"We didn't play well, we kept turning the ball over and we didn't kick well in front of goal which is unlike us,'' Storm co-coach Darryl Wilson said.
"To South Bendigo's credit I thought they were fantastic. Their structure was excellent and their ability to stay in it was impressive. Their foot skills were really good.
"It was one of those games where we were a bit lucky and they were a bit stiff. We'll bank the points and move on."
The Storm were hampered by only having one rotation on the bench from midway through the third quarter.
In the opening term, Lachlan Sharp hurt his groin for the second time this season, while Kal Geary (hamstring) and Daniel Clohesy (AC joint) were injured in the third quarter.
Read more: Saturday scoreboard
South Bendigo coach Nathan Horbury, who was one of the best players on the ground, was left to ponder what might have been.
Aside from the final 10 minutes of the second quarter where the Storm opened up a 21-point break, the Bloods matched one of the best teams in the competition.
"It would have been massive for us if we had got over the line... it's shattering,'' Horbury said.
"We played 10 minutes of bad footy in the second quarter and that was the difference in the game.
"At half-time we knew we could get back in the contest and I was proud of the way the boys stuck at it.
"No matter what Strath threw at us the boys kept playing our brand of footy which was really pleasing.
"It shows that it stands up against good footy sides because Strath are a quality side.
"Cooper Leon and Liam Byrne were out, but we also had Tom Brereton, Joel Swatton, Daniel Nalder and Ollie Simpson out.
"We've got a fair bit to come back in, so the depth is pretty good which hasn't always been the case at South.
"We're heading in the right direction and we're improving. It was good to see that type of response after we got pumped by Gisborne last game.
"I'm shattered we didn't win, but at the same time there's plenty of positives to come out of the day."
Alex Smith was good for the Bloods across half-forward, Horbury had a swag of possessions, Isaiah Miller was damaging, Braydan Torpey's kicking from defence helped set up South, while Brock Harvey (four goals) and Michael Herlihy (two goals) were dangerous inside forward 50.
One of the positives for the Storm was the form of two of their younger players.
Teenager Mitch Hallinan was calm under pressure down back and ruckman Tim Hosking played arguably his best game of the season.
Midfielder Jake Moorhead continued his outstanding season, while key forward James Schischka marked everything that came his way, but didn't have his kicking boots on.
Schischka and fellow tall Caleb Ernst missed multiple chances to put the Bloods away, particularly in the third quarter where the Storm added 4.6.
The wayward kicking in the third term left the door open for the Bloods to pounce in the final quarter.
However, the Bloods encountered their own case of the yips.
The first three scoring shots of the final term were all points to South Bendigo.
The first goal of the final term didn't come until the 14 minute mark when Brock Harvey kicked truly on the run from 40m out.
Two minutes later Harvey had a set shot from the Rifle Brigade forward pocket to cut the deficit to one point, but he missed to the left.
The Storm missed a golden opportunity to score before Ernst picked up a loose ball from a stoppage and snapped truly to extend the lead to 13 points at the 23-minute mark.
The Bloods didn't throw in the towel.
Will Allen ran into an open goal at the 25-minute mark before Antonowicz's classy snap gave the Bloods some belief.
Seconds later the home side were in disbelief as the final siren sounded.
Four goals were kicked in the shortest quarter of the day.
The win lifted the Storm to a 6-1 record through seven games and consolidated second spot on the ladder ahead of next week's home clash with Kangaroo Flat.
The Bloods dropped to seventh place with a 3-3 record - one game and percentage outside of the top five.
South Bendigo hosts Maryborough at the QEO next Saturday.
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