As stirring as this victory was for the Dees, their hierarchy must wonder where this endeavour and application was during their five-day swing in Cairns when they were outplayed by Sydney and Fremantle. Their finals berth could already have been sealed.
In a match befitting what was at stake, the two sides could not be accused of leaving anything out on the park.
Both teams had periods where they were on top and threatening to take the game away but neither could put the other away.
Goal sneak Brent Daniels set up a grandstand finish after snapping truly to pull his side within a kick with 33 seconds left to play.
The Giants mounted one last forward thrust but could not get the ball close enough to the sticks to apply the supreme pressure on the Dees’ defence.
Max Gawn was a clear winner in the ruck and though the Giants won the contested ball count the Dees controlled the clearances after half-time.
Steven May continued his excellent late-season form while Christian Petracca’s breakthrough season continued.
The Giants have now lost control of their destiny. Even if they defeat St Kilda, they will need several other results to go their way if last year’s runner-up are to make a fifth straight finals campaign.
Cameron may well be pleased with the response he got after making eight changes but it will be a hollow feeling given his team are now staring at a season without finals.
The Dees started with purpose, tackling and smothering the Giants – who were having enormous difficulty getting the ball out of their back half, giving up the first three goals. So much so it was the the boundary umpire, whose job it is to shuttle the ball back to the centre, who was clearing the ball with the most effect.
“The first quarter was clearly – four goals to one – we’re on the backburner again. [It] just kills you,” Cameron said.
“Second quarter pleasing, third quarter pleasing, and in the end we weren’t good enough when it mattered, I suppose, in the last quarter.
“Go down by five points, we lacked composure, composure when it mattered. It wasn’t just the last quarter. They scored easy goals on the back of our just fundamentals that cost us dearly.
“It’s a game of inches. If you make a poor choice or call for the ball in the wrong area, or should have blocked when we needed to, or just so many things add up in the game – and that’s what happened. We lacked composure.”
The Demons can get drawn to the ball like bees to a honeytrap but they were disciplined in this regard, which allowed them to spread from the contest with more impact.
The almost end-to-end goal which Kysaiah Pickett set up with his burst from defence illustrated the enterprise with which the Demons were playing.
Smacked at the coalface last week, the Giants gained ascendancy in the clinches in the second but it was not until nearly half-time that it began to show on the scoreboard.
The Giants’ lead edged out to two goals in the third term but the Dees midfield started to make the most of Gawn’s ruck work.
“There’s momentum in games, there’s momentum shifts. You saw two teams that were really desperate to keep their season alive and going and play the right way,” Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.
“What I am happy with the boys is the ability to reset and get the game back on our terms.”
5.2 7.5 9.6 12.7 (79)
2.3 7.5 10.7 11.8 (74)
Melbourne: Baker 2, Rivers 2, Spargo 2, Salem, Petracca, Pickett, Fritsch, Hunt, Neal-Bullen
GWS: Daniels 3, Williams 2, Lloyd 2, Perryman, Cameron, de Boer, Finlayson
Melbourne: May, Langdon, Gawn, Petracca, Oliver, Rivers.
GWS: Kelly, Hopper, Daniels, Williams, Green.
Stevic, O’Gorman, Williamson
1204 at the Gabba
Andrew Wu writes on cricket and AFL for The Sydney Morning Herald