Sandhurst's BFNL finals hopes are alive and well after the Dragons overcame a sluggish start to defeat Eaglehawk at Canterbury Park on Saturday.
The 13.14 (92) to 10.13 (73) win lifted the Dragons to within one win of fifth-placed Kyneton and sixth-placed Eaglehawk with three rounds remaining.
"Kyneton have to play Eaglehawk and us in the next two weeks and Eaglehawk has to play Gisborne in the last round,'' Sandhurst coach Ashley Connick said.
"If we can win our games, and we'll be relying on Gisborne beating Eaglehawk, then our percentage should get us through (to the finals).
"There'd be a few nervous teams in the five if we do make it."
The Dragons showed plenty of grit to see off an early Hawks ambush and record their first win at Canterbury Park in six years.
The game could have been out of reach at quarter-time had the Borough made the most of its first quarter dominance.
The Hawks pressure was outstanding and the Dragons couldn't find any rhythm with their ball movement.
The 4.6 to 2.0 scoreline kept the door ajar for Sandhurst and the Dragons pounced.
Gradually, the Dragons' midfield got on top and the Sandhurst back six clamped an Eaglehawk forward line that lacked potency.
The Hawks lost Darcy Richards (hamstring) and Fraser Verhey (ankle) to game-ending injuries in the first half, which hurt the Borough's ability to rotate.
With two points separating the teams at the main break, the opportunity was there for someone to jump and grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
Young Sandhurst key forward Cobi Maxted was just the man for the job.
On a day where contested marks inside 50m were as rare as a Jack Ginnivan free kick, Maxted stood out in the second-half with some brilliant marking.
He took three key marks in the third quarter, and could only return 1.2 from the set shots, but it gave the man himself and his team-mates a spark.
The game was still in the balance at the start of the final quarter, but the first nail in the Hawks' coffin was hammered in at the four-minute mark when midfielder Noah Wheeler was shown a yellow card and reported by two umpires for an alleged dangerous tackle on Sandhurst's Noah Walsh.
The Dragons already looked like the team more likely to win the game, but with the Hawks down a man for 15 minutes of game time, their cause became a touch easier.
A string of behinds extended the Sandhurst lead to eight points before the Hawks inexcusably left Sandhurst ruckman Hamish Hosking unmarked 50m out from goal and he slammed home a long goal.
Two minutes later Maxted clunked another contested mark and kicked truly from 50m out.
Sean Williams kicked a much-needed goal for the Hawks at the 16-minute mark to reduce the deficit to 14 points.
The Hawks pushed hard, but the Sandhurst defence stood firm and Maxted stepped up again with a crucial goal early in time-on.
After receiving a free kick, Maxted launched from 55m out on the half-forward flank at the park end and the ball sailed through for his third goal.
Liam Marciano's first goal of the game gave the Hawks a faint hope, but fittingly Alex Wharton put the icing on the Sandhurst cake.
Playing his 150th senior game, Wharton took a mark on the 50m line, played on and kicked truly from 35m out.
The Dragons' bench erupted and every Sandhurst player converged on Wharton to congratulate him.
The Dragons had 25 scoring shots to 13 after quarter-time and won by 19 points.
A result that showed Sandhurst's will to win and ability to rise when challenged.
It was a frustrating day for the Hawks, who face a nervous wait this week on the injury and tribunal front.
In some ways the game was a snapshot of their season - spectacularly brilliant at times, but average at best at others.
"Full credit to Sandhurst for the way they scrapped away,'' Eaglehawk coach Travis Matheson said.
"They're a quality side, they knocked off Gisborne, so they were always going to be hard to beat.
"I didn't think we did a whole lot wrong, but it was one of those games when not a lot went right.
"The two injuries and Noah (Wheeler) getting sent off were massive blows. We have to regroup and get ready for Kyneton next week."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.