RICHMOND has outlasted Geelong in a titanic struggle on a rain-sodden MCG on Sunday, piling on four goals to one in the final term to win by 18 points.
The Tigers led by just one point at three-quarter time after the Cats threw down the challenge to the reigning premiers by kicking three of the third term's final four goals.
But, as it has done so often in final quarters this season, the Tigers found an extra gear when it mattered.
Early goals to Jack Riewoldt and Dustin Martin quickly put them 13 points up and they were never seriously challenged after that, grinding their way to a 12.11 (83) to 9.11 (65) victory.
The Tigers' win puts them back on top of the ladder (although second-placed West Coast has a game in hand), while it was their 16th consecutive win at the MCG, a streak that began in round 14 last year against Carlton.
Nick Vlastuin was outstanding for the Tigers across half-back, taking a game-high 11 marks in slippery conditions when other players were struggling to hold their grabs.
Shane Edwards (21 possessions and seven clearances) continued his excellent recent form through the midfield, while Dustin Martin (22 disposals, five clearances and one goal) was influential on his return from a calf injury after a slow start.
Dylan Grimes made life tough for Geelong's forwards in his typically understated way, while Kane Lambert (24 possessions and one goal) and Shaun Grigg (20 possessions and seven inside 50s) were important ball-winners for the Tigers.
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick took plenty of satisfaction from defeating "a quality opposition".
"It was an arm wrestle all day, conditions made it tough, their formation behind the ball is very strong," Hardwick said.
"For our guys to respond when Geelong were coming in that third quarter and to gain ascendancy was really important.
"Trent (Cotchin's) last quarter was pretty special. I thought he led from the front and managed to will us over the line."
The Cats' loss was their third from five games at the MCG this year and puts their top-four hopes in jeopardy.
After starting the round in fourth place, they have now slipped to fifth behind Melbourne on percentage, while Collingwood (fifth) and Port Adelaide (sixth) will have the chance to climb above them next round when the Cats have a bye.
Gary Ablett (25 possessions, seven clearances and one goal) was outstanding on the big occasion and was well supported through by the midfield by captain Joel Selwood (29 possessions, five clearances and two goals) and Mitch Duncan (22 possessions and six clearances).
Tom Stewart (24 disposals and seven rebound 50s) provided an attacking springboard in defence, while Mark Blicavs largely kept Jack Riewoldt in check and Tom Hawkins booted three goals on a difficult day for key forwards.
Geelong: Tom Stewart hobbled from the ground late in the first term with a sore ankle and headed into the rooms to be assessed. The defender returned to the ground at the start of the second term and played the remainder of the game without any obvious signs of injury.
Lincoln McCarthy went into the Cats' rooms late in the third term after suffering a hamstring injury and played no further part in the game.
Richmond: Jack Riewoldt came from the ground early in the third quarter under the blood rule after suffering a cut to his face but was back on the ground five minutes later.
Both teams will enjoy a bye next round. The Tigers will resume in round 15 with a Thursday night clash against Sydney at Etihad Stadium, while the Cats play the Western Bulldogs at the same venue the following night.
More to come
GEELONG 4.2 5.5 8.7 9.11 (65)
RICHMOND 1.5 5.7 8.8 12.11 (83)
Geelong: Hawkins 3, J.Selwood 2, Stanley, Parfitt, Ablett, Parsons
Richmond: Butler 2, Riewoldt 2, Castagna 2, Grigg, Caddy, Lambert, Nankervis, Martin, Rioli
Geelong: Selwood, Stewart, Stanley, Ablett, Menegola
Richmond: Edwards, Vlastuin, Grimes, Conca, Lambert, Rance, Rioli
Geelong: McCarthy (hamstring)
Umpires: Foot, Rosebury, Meredith, Mollison
Official crowd: 46,423 at the MCG