Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge believes his young side is finally building towards its freewheeling best after a thrilling two-point AFL victory over Geelong.
Beveridge's men on Friday night snapped a five-game losing streak, downing the Cats 16.7 (103) to 15.11 (101) at Etihad Stadium.
Geelong veteran Harry Taylor's missed goal after the siren secured the result but the Bulldogs' willingness to take the game on and worry the Cats with their pressure proved vital.
First-year utility Ed Richards starred with three goals and Luke Dahlhaus (29 disposals) returned to form in style as the Bulldogs showed glimpses of the side that won the flag in 2016.
With five wins and nine losses, the Dogs remain on track to be the first AFL team this century to miss the finals in successive seasons immediately after winning a premiership.
But Beveridge senses the Dogs are building chemistry and growing in confidence, praising their fearless ball movement against Geelong.
"I think we (took the game on) for longer in this game," Beveridge said.
"Under fatigue, your ball movement can sometimes falter and it ebbs and flows. This group are just feeling their way through it together.
"I think we're more composed at different times and I thought, going inside-50 in this game, we were better at at least getting it to teammates' advantage when it didn't look ideal or Geelong had dropped numbers back."
Injuries again proved to be the negative for the Bulldogs with late inclusion Lin Jong suffering a broken collarbone in the opening minutes.
Jong came in to replace Matt Suckling, who succumbed to Achilles soreness, but suffered a broken right collarbone - the same injury he sustained in the lead-up to the 2016 grand final - in a fierce tackle from Sam Menegola.
Jong's head slammed into the turf in a tackle reminiscent of West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui's challenge on Karl Amon which controversially resulted in a one-game suspension.
The Dogs briefly went down to one man on the bench but they surged to a game-high 24-point lead early in the third term.
"For the boys to be able to cope one down, it's almost a first really," Beveridge said.
"It wasn't great losing Lin so early but we were able to cover it which was very encouraging."