ELTHAM moved a game clear in fifth on the Division 1 table following a nail-biting one-point win over Bundoora in a tense encounter at Yulong Reserve.
The Bulls led for much of the game and held a 17-point buffer midway through the third term.
However, Eltham refused to throw in the towel and Darcy Vallance drew the Panthers level with an ugly left foot snap before key forward James Kroussoratis rushed a behind with 30 seconds remaining to seal Eltham’s 9.13 (67) to 9.12 (66) win.
Eltham’s defensive unit, led by Daniel Coffield and Lachie Richardson, was exceptional. Coffield blanketed dangerous Bulls forward Gary Moorcroft, whilst Richardson quelled many of Bundoora’s thrusts forward.
Bulls ruckman Matthew Dennis was outstanding, however Eltham edged Bundoora through the midfield due largely to the Glasgow brothers.
Bundoora utility Ned McKeown was impressive on Kroussoratis and although the spearhead finished with four goals, McKeown took a host of contested marks and provided the Bulls with great run and penetration out of defence.
The loss is a huge blow for the Bulls, who now slump to 6-7 and fall a game behind the Panthers in the race for a finals berth.
Eltham improves to 7-6 and with Northcote Park and Heidelberg both suffering Round 13 defeats, percentage is all that separates it from third position.
Panthers coach Mario Bandera said the victory provides his side with a platform to launch an assault at the final five games of the home and away season.
“All year we’ve talked about showing some ticker … there were probably three or four times today where we looked like we were out of it and we just fought our way back,” Bandera said.
“We knew it was going to be tough … it gives us a one-game break now which is crucial going into the last five or six games of the year.
“Coming here (to Yulong Reserve) is like an eight-point game.”
The tone of the day was established early, as both sides entered quarter time level.
Bundoora looked to use the corridor as much as possible, but failed to capitilise on its dominance in possession.
The second term was scrappy, with skill errors and inaccuracy costing both sides.
Kroussoratis slotted the first goal of the quarter at the 19-minute mark, however Kane Slater replied for Bundoora before Damandeep Aujla nailed a tight set shot to open up a nine-point Bulls advantage at the main break.
Bundoora continued to attack in the third stanza but aside from a Nick Grabowski snap, was unable to press home its advantage further due to a string of misses.
Eltham were under immense pressure until co-captain Josh Merkel slotted a tight shot from the boundary to spark a Panther revival. Lewis Glasgow and Kroussoratis both converted set shots to give the visitors a four-point lead heading into three quarter time.
Luke Simpson quickly halted any Panther momentum with his goal in the second minute of the final quarter, before miracle goals from James Lord and Moorcroft ensured Bundoora held a commanding two-goal lead.
With Eltham slipping out of the game, Merkel and Kroussoratis kicked crucial back-to-back majors to breathe life back into the contest.
Bundoora again hit the lead when Simpson kicked truly at the 24-minute mark and seemingly had the game wrapped up when it still led by that goal five minutes later, despite Eltham throwing everything at the Bulls defence.
The Panthers finally drew level again through Vallance before Kroussoratis ushered the ball through for a point moments later to seal a vital win.
Eltham returns home after the bye to face reigning premier Greensborough at Panther Place, whilst Bundoora will square off with arch-rival Heidelberg in a crunch game for both sides.
A full replay of the game, including the nail-biting last couple of minutes of play is available in our Video Gallery
Best Players: , M. Williamson , D. Coffield , L. Glasgow , L. Richardson , B. Glasgow , D. Vallance
Reserves got of to a very good start with 6 goals to 1 first quater, maintained a increased lead for a strong win.
Best Players: , S. Zito , A. Hourigan , L. McCreery , K. O”Sullivan , T. Snell , B. Sharwood
For three quarters we were able to take it right up to a strong Bundoora outfit, After those three quarters, it was disappointing that we allowed them 11 goals to 1 in the last.
Best Players: , B. Waugh , M. Pavlovski , A. Parisi , M. Lawson , M. Coco , D. Marshall