You can always bank on Scott Pendlebury.
With his Collingwood side struggling to click into gear against an equally wayward North Melbourne on Monday night, the club's talismanic skipper sensed the moment and decided to do it himself.
Through sheer force of will, and through his trademark class on the many occasions where he found the footy, Pendlebury spearheaded a second-half surge that inspired a hard-earned 30-point Magpies victory.
Pendlebury had 11 disposals and a goal in the third quarter alone, steadying the ship with his composure at the contest as Collingwood wriggled clear of a gallant North Melbourne to win 10.5 (65) to 5.5 (35).
He finished with 28 touches for the night, duly supported by Taylor Adams (31 disposals, one goal) and Steele Sidebottom (23 disposals, one goal) in a Magpies midfield that eventually bested their younger Kangaroos counterparts.
While the victory was by no means convincing, it was important. The result lifts Collingwood to seventh on the ladder with just four matches remaining in its season, creating a valuable two-game buffer between itself and the ninth-placed Melbourne.
As for North Melbourne, its season was effectively over a long time ago. And while Jed Anderson (30 disposals, nine clearances) provided physicality and resilience all night, its hopes of an unlikely upset faded after half-time.
The Kangaroos had threatened a boilover with a competitive start, but were powerless to stop Pendlebury's dominance after the main break as the prospect of a fourth win for the season evaded them.
Pies finally find a spread on the scoreboard
It's been the question that has lingered at Collingwood all year: why are the Pies finding it so difficult to score? In 10 of 12 games before Monday night's clash, the Pies had scored fewer than the AFL average of 62 points. A first quarter that yielded only one major from 11 inside 50s wouldn't have eased Nathan Buckley's worries, either. But when Collingwood managed to break the shackles after half-time, it would have been the spread of goalkickers that pleased the Magpies coach the most. Instead of relying on one key target, Collingwood had nine different goal scorers and found an array of options in players like Trey Ruscoe and Flynn Appleby. Although it wasn't always convincing, it was promising.
Kangas youngster shows true toughness
North Melbourne has a beauty in Jack Mahony. The small forward, who has shown exciting glimpses of his potential throughout his maiden AFL season, came from the field nursing a sore shoulder in the first quarter after a hard tackle from Levi Greenwood. But, having returned in the second term, Mahony – who was still favouring his left shoulder – went straight into a physical groundball contest with Taylor Adams. If that wasn't bravery personified, the fact he emerged with the football to set up a Bailey Scott goal was further evidence of his talent and toughness. Mahony played out the game with heavy strapping.
Pies get around big American
It hasn't been the easiest season for Collingwood big man Mason Cox. In fact, it hadn't been the easiest game for him on Monday night. But his Pies teammates sure enjoyed his work. Without a disposal to his name in the dying stages of the first half, Cox eventually found space inside 50 and converted on the scoreboard with his first kick of the match. It led to a nice celebration with his Collingwood teammates, with almost every Pie mobbing Cox to congratulate him. It was the American's first senior match in six weeks, having dealt with both form and fitness issues throughout the season. A late tackle on a cheeky Jy Simpkin, who had attempted to round the 211cm forward, further endeared him to the Pies faithful.
COLLINGWOOD 1.2 4.3 8.3 10.5 (65)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 3.4 5.5 5.5 (35)
Collingwood: Ruscoe 2, Thomas, Daicos, Cox, Appleby, Adams, Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Hoskin-Elliott
North Melbourne: Dumont, Hosie, Scott, Simpkin, Xerri
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Adams, Maynard, Moore, Sidebottom, Mayne, Daicos
North Melbourne: Anderson, Higgins, Simpkin, McDonald, Dumont
North Melbourne: Mahony (shoulder)