AFL premiership fancies Geelong have responded to their shock round-one loss by holding on for a thrilling one-point win against the Brisbane Lions on a night of high drama at GMHBA Stadium.
The Cats were heading for a comfortable victory on Friday before the Lions rallied to pinch the lead for the first time since the opening stages at the 21-minute mark of the last quarter after they had entered it trailing by 21 points.
But former Hawthorn champion Isaac Smith came to the fore with three minutes remaining with the veteran recruit snapping the game-sealing goal.
Without Patrick Dangerfield, the Cats thwarted Brisbane's late attempts to reclaim the lead, which included two rushed behinds, before they hung on to win 12.9 (81) to 11.14 (80).
Speedster Zac Bailey laid a fierce tackle on Mark Blicavs metres out from the Lions' goal in the dying seconds with the Geelong tall appearing to get rid of the ball illegally but the umpire called play-on.
A coronavirus scare had hung over the game as Victorian government health advice declared the Brisbane and Moreton Bay areas hotspots less than an hour before kick-off.
Former Lions champion Luke Hodge and Wayne Carey had to leave commentary duties mid-match due to the new advice along with some fans, but the AFL declared the Lions safe to play.
Geelong forward Gary Rohan is almost certain to be cited for striking Lions star Lachie Neale behind play in the first quarter.
The Brownlow medallist appeared to be collected high and stayed down for up to 30 seconds.
A 50-metre penalty was paid against Cats skipper Joel Selwood for a dangerous tackle on Lions youngster Tom Berry, but the incident is unlikely to attract scrutiny from the match review officer.
Tensions boiled over further at quarter-time when Cats coach Chris Scott had strong words with some Brisbane players, including Joe Daniher and Harris Andrews.
The match opened with surprise debutant Francis Evans converting the first kick of his career into a goal to have the Cats crowd roaring.
Selwood, Zach Tuohy, and All-Australians Tom Hawkins (three goals) and Cameron Guthrie (28 possessions) were vital for the Cats as they put the loss to wooden spooners Adelaide last week behind them.
"I thought for the most part we had control of the game, we just couldn't put a break on them to be comfortable," Cats coach Chris Scott said.
"It was tense for the second week in a row. We played better but we didn't play anywhere near as well as we can."
A sore Neale endured one of the quietest games of his illustrious career before lifting with a big final term.
Lions ruckman Oscar McInerney (ankle) was injured early, but stayed on the ground until being subbed out for the speedy Keidean Coleman in the final quarter.
Eric Hipwood was dangerous up forward with four goals, but sprayed some golden opportunities for the Lions.
"That's as tough and as hard a game as we've played in a long, long time," Lions coach Chris Fagan said.
"Geelong at Geelong off a loss was a big game...I thought our blokes showed a lot of courage and character, they hung in the game and found a way to come back."
Geelong have a nine-day wait before battling Hawthorn at the MCG, while the Lions are due to host Collingwood at the Gabba on Easter Thursday.