A desperate smother from Geelong big man Mark Blicavs means West Coast will have to do things the hard way if they are to be crowned premiers in 2020.
Geelong leapfrogged West Coast into fourth spot with a thrilling six-point win over Sydney on Sunday.
It means the Cats will have a double chance in the finals, and their campaign begins with a qualifying final against either Brisbane or Port Adelaide.
West Coast have now been thrust into a must-win elimination final in Perth against the eighth-ranked side.
If West Coast win that, they'll need to win an away semi-final and an away preliminary final just to make the grand final.
The story could have been vastly different if it wasn't for a desperate smother from Blicavs with just two seconds remaining.
A draw would have seen Geelong finish fifth, but luckily for the Cats Blicavs was on hand to smother James Rowbottom's snap from 35m out.
The result was heartbreaking for West Coast, who needed either Adelaide to upset Richmond, or Sydney to upset Geelong to secure a top-four berth.
The Eagles at least received a dose of good news on Sunday when forward Josh Kennedy was cleared of any serious damage to his injured ankle.
Luke Shuey (hamstring), Jack Redden (thumb), Jamie Cripps (personal reasons), Lewis Jetta (calf) and Mark Hutchings (hamstring) should also be available for the start of the finals, but Jeremy McGovern (hamstring) and Elliot Yeo (osteitis pubis) face a battle to prove their fitness.
The Bulldogs secured their finals berth with a 30-point win over Fremantle at Cazaly's Stadium on Sunday night, meaning the Demons were relegated to ninth.
But the win could come at a huge cost for the Bulldogs, with star forward Aaron Naughton sent to hospital for scans on his face after clashing heads with Sean Darcy.
Milestone man Mitch Wallis appeared to injure his shoulder late in the match and is also in doubt for the start of the finals.
On Saturday, Dustin Martin turned it on and Shane Edwards made a seamless return as Richmond secured their top-four spot with a 44-point win against Adelaide.
It was a solid tune-up as the Tigers prepare for their shot at a third flag in four seasons, and they will welcome back Tom Lynch, Dion Prestia and Shai Bolton for the finals.
Retiring Hawthorn stalwart Paul Puopolo booted three goals in his side's 51-point demolition of Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale returned to his best and Daniel Rich starred as Brisbane downed Carlton by 17 points in a win that would have been much more comfortable if not for the Blues' incredible accuracy (10.1) in front of goal.
The Lions have the benefit of two home finals and may not have to leave the Gabba, which will host the season decider on October 24.
On Friday night, St Kilda knocked Greater Western Sydney out of the top-eight race with a 52-point hiding that secured the Saints' first finals appearance since the Giants have been in the competition.
The minor premiership and final top-eight positions will be decided when Collingwood meet Port Adelaide on Monday night.