Pressure has been relieved at the Whitten Oval with the Western Bulldogs breaking their 2020 drought by scoring a fiery 24-point win against GWS.
Coming into the Friday night Marvel Stadium clash on the back of two heavy defeats, the Bulldogs were never headed in the 8.9 (57) to 4.9 (33) triumph.
They weathered a fierce physical storm from the Giants, who attempted to replicate the tactics which saw them canter to a dominant victory over the Dogs in last year’s elimination final.
Even without injured key protagonist Toby Greene, tensions boiled over several times to continue a growing rivalry which has built since the epic 2016 preliminary final.
An all-in melee at three-quarter-time is sure to keep the match review officer busy, with jumpers torn and players thrown to the ground.
The Giants went after Marcus Bontempelli from the get-go, swapping defender Nick Haynes in for captain Stephen Coniglio at the coin toss.
Haynes had his larynx fractured during an incident with the Dogs captain in round 22 last year and Bontempelli was fined rather than suspended.
But for all of GWS’ intimidation tactics, last year’s grand finalists slumped to a second straight, disappointing defeat.
They entered the main break after kicking just 1.4 – the Giants’ third-lowest scoring first-half in their history and worst since the club’s inaugural season of 2012.
The Dogs were a different team to the one that was crushed by St Kilda at the same venue five days earlier.
Young ruckman Tim English lifted following a difficult opening two rounds, while Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith were game-changers.
Alex Keath was a rock in defence and the former Adelaide defender even floated forward to bomb a long goal in the second quarter.
GWS flyer Lachie Whitfield’s night ended early with concussion after copping a heavy knock from Bulldogs forward Aaron Naughton in the first quarter.
Winners for the Giants were few and far between as they ended with their equal-fifth lowest score in their history, but Coniglio and Harry Perryman stood out.