Carlton coach Mick Malthouse labelled a stunning come-from-behind win over the West Coast Eagles one of the best of his 30-year coaching career after the Blues conjured a three-point win at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing by four goals with 10 minutes remaining, the Blues produced a stirring response, booting straight five goals to secure back-to-back wins and set up an enticing clash against Collingwood next Friday night.
The Blues appeared out of run early in the final term but Jeff Garlett's third goal of the game and another two minutes later from Zach Tuohy, who had earlier been given a public lashing by Malthouse for a botched short kick, provided momentum the Eagles were unable to halt.
"I just felt it was a very gutsy win all-up. We lost six players from last week (against the Western Bulldogs), all injured, all can go through the middle, so you have changed everything up, and the boys accepted that," Malthouse said.
"I thought it was one of the better wins I have been associated with. And I mean that. It is easy to get caught up in the moment, but when I see where we were before the match, where we were during the match and how we ended up, that to me, it's a good growth game.
"It's whether we can actually now learn a lot from it and grow from it."
The Blues were forced to make a sixth change before the match when Andrew Carrazzo withdrew because of back spasms, joining the injured Chris Judd, David Ellard, Tom Bell and Ed Curnow, while Patrick Cripps was dropped after the win over the Bulldogs. Dylan Buckley replaced Carrazzo and provided great run from defence.
Skipper Marc Murphy (32 disposals) and half-back Kade Simpson (26) were strong all game, while midfielder Brock McLean, returning from a spell in the VFL, found plenty of the ball while tagging prime Eagles midfielder Matt Priddis. Garlett also was impressive in his first match back since a spell in the VFL.
"We backed ourselves in and it came off in the end," Murphy said.
Half-back Chris Yarran (hamstring soreness) was subbed off in the third term and is in doubt for Friday's game.
Saturday night's win ensures the Blues, who won the tackle count 71-46, remain in touch with the top eight and play the Magpies and St Kilda before the bye.
"You learn a lot from those games, both good and bad, but more importantly you learn how to win," Malthouse said.
The Eagles had every chance to secure their fourth win of the season but were wasteful again in front of goal. They scored 1.8 in the final term and were unfortunate that a running shot by Scott Selwood and Josh Kennedy's left-foot soccer attempt in the final minutes hit the post.
"We just didn't steel ourselves and take opportunities in the first 15 minutes (of the final term) when we dominated. We will learn a lot from today, but it really hurts," coach Adam Simpson said.
Simpson said the Eagles would persist with enigmatic ruckman Nic Naitanui. He had 24 hit outs but only 10 disposals (none in the third term) and one mark.
"He just needs to keep playing. We just need to keep giving him time, get his body right, get him to the point that he is really confident. He might not have been outstanding, but I think he is taking steps forward," Simpson said.