The Saints entered their Round 18 clash with Port Adelaide in 2008 knowing their finals hopes were on a knife’s edge. Outside the eight by percentage after a shock loss to the lowly Eagles a week before, another loss could deliver a knockout blow to their hopes of a September return.
Despite playing in the previous season’s Grand Final, Port Adelaide’s finals hopes had long faded but had proven a difficult opponent for teams with September ambitions. With a number of youngsters desperate to prove themselves, and with veterans playing for their career, they came to Melbourne eager for victory. This enthusiasm evident early as they raced to an early lead with two goals in the first five minutes. St Kilda would settle with goals to Stephen Milne and James Gwilt but could only trade goals for the remainder of the quarter. Nick Riewoldt and Jason Gram answering a Daniel Motlop effort from a dubious free-kick and a long bomb from Nick Salter. A late Adam Schneider behind levelled the scores at the first break.
The Saints would take the lead immediately after the break. Leigh Montagna scoring a behind from the quarter’s opening centre clearance. Nick Salter reclaimed the lead quickly for the visitors with his second major. The quick scoring would not continue with the game becoming a form of competitive circle for ten minutes. It would be a skipper’s goal to Riewoldt that would break the arm wrestle. His signature hard running on show as he took a strong mark and goaled. Port answered Riewoldt’s challenge with a rushed behind and a Dean Brogan goal.
Jacob Surjan would extend the Power lead before back to back goals to Aaron Fiora and Robert Harvey saw the teams level again. The hard work to get back on level footing would be undone by a piece of Adam Schneider ill-discipline. The former Swan encroaching the mark to compound a David Rodan free-kick from the resultant ball up with a 50-metre penalty. Leigh Montagna and Jarryn Geary would both miss chances to leave the visitors four-points in front at half time.
A pair of Justin Westhoff goals opened the third-quarter and began a charge by the visitors. His third for the quarter, after a long bomb from Motlop, meant they had kicked five goals out of six. Aaron Fiora’s second goal the only interruption to the Power surge which had seen their lead extend to 18-points. A late James Gwilt major keeping the Saints floundering hopes alive.
These hopes were given another boost when Luke Ball goaled from the opening bounce of the fourth quarter. A pair of Schneider behinds saw the margin back within a kick until a dubious 50-metre penalty handed Travis Boak and answering goal. After his earlier misses, Adam Schneider kicked an important goal from a tight angle. When Justin Koschitzke goaled minutes later after a big mark, scores were level once again.
A Luke Ball miss and two rushed behinds gave the Saints a three-point lead. Brett Ebert missed a gilt-edged chance for the visitors to edge ahead before Nick Riewoldt once again stood tall. With the game in time on, the big forward bravely marked with the flight of the ball before kicking truly. Jason Gram would kick the winner minutes later with it too requiring a huge dollop of bravery. The spillage that Gram profited from coming from a determined contest from Luke Ball that would win the game but end the onballers season.