Collingwood just needed to win.
The same could be said for Adelaide, which remains planted on the bottom without a victory in season 2020, but Nathan Buckley's Magpies are supposed to be contending for the flag.
In the end, after a bit of a scare, Collingwood banked four much-needed points with a 10.2 (62) to 5.8 (38) triumph to earn some breathing room inside the top eight.
Tuesday night's result precedes a challenging encounter on Saturday against finals aspirant Melbourne that could shape the run home for both clubs.
Taylor Adams was again the catalyst, winning team-highs of 27 disposals, 16 contested possessions and 10 clearances.
Perhaps only Lachie Neale, Christian Petracca and Travis Boak are having a better season than the star Magpie.
Jack Crisp (22 disposals), Steele Sidebottom (22) and Brayden Maynard (21) proved good support, while Darcy Cameron (nine marks, two goals) may have banished Mason Cox for even longer with a strong aerial display.
There's still time for Collingwood to hit top gear, but an injury list including Scott Pendlebury, Jordan De Goey, Jeremy Howe and Adam Treloar – plus Darcy Moore sitting this one out – means it's in preservation mode.
After barely beating Sydney five days ago, the Pies trailed the spirited Crows by nine points at half-time on Tuesday night.
The big difference was Collingwood's improved goalkicking accuracy, although limp Chris Mayne and Darcy Cameron attempts in the second term brought back some bad memories.
They were 2.10 at the main break against the Swans last week, but reversed that scoreline at Adelaide's expense, including five goals without a miss in the third quarter to snatch the lead for good.
Rory Laird (37, 17 contested possessions, 10 clearances) produced his best performance so far as an onballer, and Elliott Himmelberg and Tyson Stengle chipped in with two majors apiece.
Brodie Smith's penetrating kicking was important for the Crows, but he also gifted the Magpies some scores with defensive-half turnovers.
Dunn deal from the set shot
Lynden Dunn's endured more than his fair share of pain since Melbourne made him a first-round draft pick way back in 2004. He's never played a final – owing largely to the Demons' lack of success, but also to horrible luck. Dunn, then a Magpie, suffered the first of his two major knee injuries in round 15, 2018, with Collingwood going on to make the Grand Final that season. The 33-year-old's transformed himself from a forward into a dependable defender, but his return game on Tuesday night was his first in 773 days. No wonder Dunn was emotional mid-week when he found out he was in. His hillbilly haircut is hard to miss, as were the mass celebrations when he slotted a goal in the second quarter after a 50m penalty. Dunn's a popular clubman and his teammates ran from everywhere to revel in the moment. There could have been a similar situation for Tim Broomhead – playing at this level for the first time since breaking his left leg in round two, 2018. Unfortunately, Broomhead's shot at goal sailed out on the full.
The 'other' Himmelberg continues to blossom
Adelaide's been incredibly patient with forward-ruck Elliott Himmelberg since selecting him with the No.51 pick in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft. Himmelberg, whose older brother Harry is a key part of Greater Western Sydney's attack, played only one game in his first two seasons at the club, then managed eight goals in seven matches last year. However, it's the past fortnight, in particular, when the 22-year-old is starting to make his mark. After three contested marks and a goal against Melbourne, Himmelberg followed up with an authoritative display up forward (while also spelling Reilly O'Brien a chop-out in the ruck). His 10 disposals, five marks (three contested) and two goals didn't really do him justice. With Taylor Walker fading and Darcy Fogarty's career still in its infancy, Himmelberg's emergence is just the type of positive Matthew Nicks is hoping to get out of this season.
Could a recruit be the Magpies' forward saviour?
Collingwood ranked dead last in the AFL between rounds five and 10 for goals per inside 50 percentage. That's not the hallmark of a premiership contender, even with one of the competition's stiffest defences. The Pies are screaming out for a tall target, given Brody Mihocek is more of a complementary piece in attack. Mason Cox last played in round six and he might have to keep biding his time after what Darcy Cameron produced on Tuesday night. Cameron missed a few early set shots, but the ex-Swan finished with two goals, hauled in nine marks (five contested and four inside 50), won 15 disposals (nine contested) and gave Brodie Grundy ruck support. Nathan Buckley's being a bit ambitious if he wants those numbers each game, but Cameron's quietly put together a solid string of performances. If he can keep standing up, not only will Mihocek benefit, but so, too, will Jaidyn Stephenson, Josh Thomas and co.
ADELAIDE 2.1 3.4 3.8 5.8 (38)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 2.1 7.1 10.2 (62)
Adelaide: Stengle 2, Himmelberg 2, McAdam
Collingwood: Ruscoe 2, Stephenson 2, Cameron 2, Daicos, Dunn, Thomas, Mihocek
Adelaide: Laird, O'Brien, Himmelberg, Stengle, M.Crouch, Smith
Collingwood: Adams, Crisp, Sidebottom, Cameron, Maynard, Sier
Adelaide: Lynch (hamstring), Doedee (hamstring)
Collingwood: Roughead (concussion)