Collingwood have repelled the challenge of Geelong, overcoming injuries and pressure to clinch an eight-point victory at the MCG that ensures they retain a strong hold on top spot.
But the Magpies will be nervously eyeing developments over the weekend, after skipper Darcy Moore joined the growing injury list, with a hamstring issue that ended his night early.
The Cats started strongly, kicking six goals to three in the first term, before Collingwood hit back in the second term to trail by a point.
The Magpies then delivered after half-time, kicking six goals to two in the third term to take control of the game.
Geelong tried to surge in the final term, driven by the impressive attacking play of Patrick Dangerfield.
But the Cats could not take enough of their chances, and the Magpies took the points 16.13 (109) to 15.11 (101).
For Geelong, spearhead Jeremy Camer on kicked seven goals, but it was not enough, while Brody Mihocek led the way for Collingwood with five.
Magpies skipper Darcy Moore was subbed off before the end of the opening quarter with a hamstring injury.
Replays showed Moore running across the ground at pace before slowing suddenly as he grabbed at the back of his leg.
The Pies looked like they had taken another hit early in the second quarter, as key midfielder Jordan de Goey came off the ground with a high leg strain, but he came back on minutes later.
There were further concerns later when defender John Noble hobbled off after getting a corked muscle in a tackle from Dangerfield. But like de Goey he was able to return and finish the game.
The injury woes follow last week’s news that star Nick Daicos could miss as many as five or six weeks after sustaining a hairline fracture in his right knee.
The Cats have issues of their own, with forward Gary Rohan subbed off in the first quarter as well, following another hamstring or high leg problem.
Cameron had struggled for form, but he had three goals in the opening term. But his issues with set shots let him down as the game wore on. He finished with 7.4.
Dangerfield shaped as the match-winner early in the final term. His dynamic play out of the middle threatened to carry the Cats to victory. He finished with 11 inside 50s, 12 score involvements and nine total clearances plus a goal of his own.
In the end, Collingwood’s ability to run the ball out of defence and generate scores made the difference.
Nathan Murphy was particularly strong at the back, Josh Daicos was a standout with 37 disposals, and Jeremy Howe chimed in with two goals in a surprise move up forward.
The loss means that Chris Scott’s men will have to win their last two games to have a chance of making finals, and hope for other results to go their way if they want an opportunity to defend their flag.