With nine minutes to go, the ball surged into North Melbourne’s forward line once more.
The Kangaroos had been behind for three quarters but, as coach Brad Scott would later admit, were confident they could run over the line.
As the ball sailed in, Jarrad Waite was there.
He’d been everywhere all night.
And he would be at the other end less than a minute later, running past the entire North Melbourne team to grab Sam Docherty’s ball over the top and goal.
Castigated by coach Mick Malthouse earlier in the month, this could have been the last great game from the maverick forward or a game that earns a new contract.
Told by Malthouse earlier in this month he needed to “come to grips with what we’re trying to do”, the 31-year-old’s career looked not just in doubt but doomed.
But a late virus to Brock McLean handed him the chance to play against North Melbourne, and one he took.
This was a stirring win in front of a strong Etihad Stadium crowd of over 36,000 – and a fitting reward for Blues fans who have endured a miserable season.
Carlton had winners all over the ground.
Bryce Gibbs and Chris Judd starred in midfield while Waite, six-goal Lachie Henderson and Blues debutant Cameron Wood combined for 11 goals.
Scott said it was the marks that crushed his side.
“There was one statistic that stands out, for the opposition to have as many marks as they did tonight… it’s pretty hard to win a game of footy,” he said.
Carlton had 126 of them.
Defender Sam Rowe, who took six in defence, said the win was a key point on the journey.
“Every win’s a good win, but it’s nice to beat a team that everyone reckons is a very good team,” he said.
“We’ve got to take the approach that we’re 20-odd games away from playing finals next year.
“It’s very satisfying, we’ve been putting in the hard work.”
While Rowe conceded the Blues’ forwards would get the plaudits, it’s unclear whether Malthouse’s decision to draft Waite was tactical masterstroke or a last-minute plan B.
That’s because the gruff veteran, just two days after declaring he would improve his temperament at press conferences, again left in a huff.
Objecting to a question about whether he regretted arguments with journalists last week, Malthouse was off.
“Do you want me to go to confession or something? Have I murdered someone?” he said on his way out.
At least this time, Malthouse has the four points to go with the attitude.