THE WESTERN Bulldogs pulled off a stunning comeback to record their first win over St Kilda in four seasons, finishing runaway 19.11 (125) to 13.9 (87) winners at Telstra Dome on Friday night.
St Kilda fell asleep after quarter time as the Bulldogs slammed on 18 goals to six in the final three quarters to notch the 38-point win after trailing by 37 points at the first change.
With the Saints' dominance of their head-to-head record in recent years thanks largely to the dominance of their big forwards, the first quarter of tonight's match suggested that trend was set to be followed again.
St Kilda blitzed the Bulldogs 7.3 to 1.2 in the first term, with star forwards Justin Koschitzke and Nick Riewoldt looking too strong for their respective opponents Cameron Wight and Dale Morris, to kick two goals each.
But that was pretty much where it stopped for the Saints' tall towers – although Koschitzke added a consolation goal late in the game – and their side as a whole, as the Dogs worked their way on top and took over the contest in the centre of the ground.
With Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and exciting youngster Josh Hill providing a huge lift through the midfield and up forward, the Bulldogs started a scoring avalanche of their own.
They outscored the Saints 5.4 to 2.3 in the second quarter to draw within three goals, then booted the first five goals of the third term to steam to a 13-point lead and never look back.
Saints midfielder Luke Ball narrowed the margin to seven points from a free kick late in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs burst out of the blocks in the final term to boot six of the first seven goals of the term to bury their opponents.
Cooney gathered a ton of the ball to lead the midfield revival, after the Bulldogs were thrashed in that area in the first term. The former No.1 draft pick topped of a terrific performance by kicking two goals and took best-afield honours.
He had great help from Griffen, who also fought hard for the ball in the centre square, as well as kicking two inspirational goals in the second quarter to help spark his side's fightback.
The first of those was a match highlight, Griffen receiving a handball from Cooney in the middle of the ground, weaving around opponent Jason Blake and sending through a running shot from outside 50m.
It sparked a four-goal run for the Dogs, with Griffen also kicking the last of those, to bring the Dogs back within striking distance.
Hill followed up his Rising Star nomination-winning performance against Melbourne last round with a vital contribution, kicking a goal in each of the second and third terms, as well as taking some important marks and winning his share of the ball on the ground.
Then he produced a highlight of his own early in the third term, having a pass to full-forward Scott Welsh spoiled by Saints defender Max Hudghton, but gathering the crumbs himself and speeding past an opponent to fire through a running shot.
Daniel Cross, Daniel Giansiracusa and Scott West also deserved credit for their midfield work which helped their side take over the match.
Half-forwards Robert Murphy and Mitch Hahn provided important sparks up forward, after their side struggled to find a winner in attack early.
Morris was superb on Riewoldt after quarter-time, preventing him from having an impact, and Wight also grew in his impact on the game, after struggling early on Koschitzke.
For the Saints, Sam Fisher was clearly their best, keeping Bulldogs skipper Brad Johnson scoreless and providing a lot of rebound himself, with ex-Sydney recruit Adam Schneider finding plenty of the ball around the ground.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2, 6.6, 11.9, 19.11 (125)
ST KILDA 7.3, 9.6, 10.8, 13.9 (87)
Western Bulldogs: M Hahn 3, R Griffen 3, J Akermanis 3, A Cooney 2, J Hill 2, J Harbrow 2, R Murphy, W Minson, S Welsh, C Wight. St Kilda: J Koschitzke 3, N Riewoldt 2, L Ball 2, S Milne 2, J Gram, F Gehrig, L Montagna, A Schneider.
Western Bulldogs: A Cooney, R Griffen, J Hill, D Cross, D Morris, R Murphy. St Kilda: S Fisher, A Schneider, J Gram, N Dal Santo, L Ball, R Harvey.
Western Bulldogs: N Eagleton (ankle) replaced in selected side by J Harbrow. St Kilda: M Gardiner (calf) replaced in selected side by R Clarke.