The race for the AFL top eight is coming down to the wire, with six teams competing for the last two places.
A host of AFL clubs are sweating on injuries that could determine whether their seasons extend into September.
With two rounds to play, no position on the AFL ladder is secure in a race to the finals that will go down to the wire.
At the top end, Sydney’s percentage-boosting win over St Kilda put the Swans in the box seat to finish first, particularly with the Hawks and Cats duelling next week.
Geelong’s tight win over Carlton sets up a showdown for a top-two place with the Hawks – though they’ll need absent pair Jimmy Bartel and Steve Johnson back to be at their best.
Hawthorn were well beaten by fourth-placed Fremantle in their Perth grand-final rematch and have now lost to each of the top six.
While Jack Gunston played against the Dockers, the Hawks will be sweating on the fitness of Cyril Rioli as he makes his way back from yet another hamstring tear, though rushing him through that rehab is the last thing the club will want to do.
Fremantle in fourth, and fifth-placed Port Adelaide’s last round match could settle the final spot in the top four, after the Power edged Gold Coast by nine points.
In sixth, North Melbourne are all but secured September action after earning their 12th win of the season with a 50-point belting of the Western Bulldogs.
It’s after that things get very interesting.
Six teams are in the hunt for two finals berths, with only Essendon having their fate in their own hands.
Ahead of a clutch meeting against fellow finals aspirant Gold Coast, Jake Carlisle, who missed the Bombers’ nail-biting three point win over West Coast, looked lame as he reported to the club.
“Next week I’ll be right, I’ve pulled up alright the last few days,” he said while hobbling on crutches.
Eighth-placed Adelaide have the chasing pack breathing down their neck after a 10-point loss to Richmond, one place outside the top eight.
After losing Andy Otten last week, the Crows will be made to wait on David Mackay’s fitness, after he was stretchered off with a head knock.
Adelaide’s Hobart date with North Melbourne is another clash that will shape the eight.
Fresh from stretching their winning streak to seven, the Tigers can’t afford to let up against St Kilda next week.
But it’s Collingwood where the real tale of woe kicks in.
Sitting in the top four two months ago, the injury-ravaged Magpies have slipped to 10-10 in the win-loss column, after copping a 67-point belting at the hands of Brisbane.
Travis Cloke, Dayne Beams and Ben Reid look done for the year, while the withdrawals of captain Scott Pendlebury (quad) and Jamie Elliot (hamstring) raise huge doubts.
Ahead of their trip to GWS – who belted Melbourne by 64 points on Sunday – defender Alan Toovey defied his coach by saying their goose was cooked.
“By the way it looks now it’s going to be pretty much impossible to make it,” he told Triple M.
“But I don’t think it’s a wasted year, a lot of young blokes came into the side and did well.”
Coach Nathan Buckley said there would be no surrender.
“We’re not going to just crawl meekly into the corner and not compete,” he said.
“When I say `we’re still not out of it,’ I mean it because we can still win our last two games.”
The 12th-placed Eagles will lick their lips ahead of the insipid Demons’ visit in round 22 but with just nine wins, are in danger of setting an unwanted record.
Sitting on 111 per cent, the Eagles could overtake an 18-year-old benchmark for strong percentage without September footy.
That record is currently held by the Tigers, who in 1996 finished – you guessed it – ninth, with a percentage of 117.
THE RUN HOME FOR THE AFL TEAMS STILL IN CONTENTION FOR A FINALS BERTH AFTER ROUND 21:
* 1. SYDNEY (64 points – 143%) – Western Bulldogs (ES), Richmond (ANZ)
* 2. GEELONG (64 – 113%) – Hawthorn (MCG), Brisbane (SS)
* 3. HAWTHORN (60 – 138%) – Geelong (MCG), Collingwood (MCG)
* 4. FREMANTLE (56 – 129%) – Brisbane (G), Port Adelaide (PS)
* 5. PORT ADELAIDE (52 – 126%) – Carlton (AO), Fremantle (PS)
* 6. NORTH MELBOURNE (48 – 117%) – Adelaide (Hobart), Melbourne (ES)
* 7. ESSENDON (44 – 106%) – Gold Coast (ES), Carlton (MCG)
* 8. ADELAIDE (40 – 111%) – North Melbourne (Hobart), St Kilda (AO)
* 9. RICHMOND (40 – 104%) – St Kilda (MCG), Sydney (ANZ)
* 10. COLLINGWOOD (40 – 97%) – GWS (SPO), Hawthorn (MCG)
* 11. GOLD COAST (40 – 97%) – Essendon (ES), West Coast (MS)
* 12. WEST COAST (36 – 111%) – Melbourne (PS), Gold Coast (MS)