Twelve months after finishing with the wooden spoon, Coleambally have booked their return to finals with a tense seven-point win against Charles Sturt University in their all-or-nothing showdown at Peter Hastie Oval on Saturday.
The Blues held off a fast-finishing Bushpigs for an 11.8 (74) to 10.7 (67) victory which sets up an elimination final against Temora next Sunday.
It went to the wire - the final minutes of the final quarter of the final round - but Coleambally's win had been set up just after half-time when midfield control and forward pressure brought three goals in quick succession for the visitors.
It's one mission accomplished for co-coaches Luke Hillier, in his first year at the club, and Mitch Carroll, in his last, taking the club to their first final since the 2016 grand final.
"It was nerve-wracking," a relieved Carroll said, particularly as the scoreboard was a point out in the final term, showing a six-point lead for the Blues. It had the bench nervously checking to be sure that a draw would keep them in fifth if the Bushpigs kicked an equaliser.
"Real happy. It was a big goal for us, we had a few recruits in, a few new faces in, guys like Jake Breed coming back, who's a local. So it was a massive goal and we would've felt like we'd underachieved if we didn't make it.
"Fifth spot's all we need. It's a start and I'm really happy for the whole club."
In a quick, open and entertaining first quarter, Coleambally found themselves down by 17 points after 20 minutes with Wayde Archibald and Lachy Moore steering CSU to advantage.
Two goals in two minutes to the Blues' Brandon Mathews brought them right back, even though the Pigs added a fifth before the first break.
Coleambally's Curtis Steele put the writing on the wall with a brilliant opening clearance to start the second, setting up a Graham O'Connell goal, and with Tom Morton superb across half-back, the Blues started to stifle CSU's forward entries and take control.
A goal to Breed in his 100th game and then Mathews' third put Coleambally in front at the 16-minute mark of the second quarter. They took that three-point advantage into half-time and it was a lead they wouldn't surrender.
"Our third quarter we really concentrated on because they had that bit of a breeze and we thought if we can outscore them into the breeze, we'll set ourselves up," Carroll said.
"We ended up nearly 20 points going into the last quarter. But we definitely needed them all in the end."
They followed orders as Dwayne Weetra kicked his second and third just after half-time, and then O'Connell got on the end of another Steele centre clearance to open up a 21-point break.
CSU struggled to find their forward targets but when coach Pat Noonan jagged a goal 19 minutes into the third term, there was only 10 points in it.
It didn't last long as one of his opposites, Hillier, kicked the next two - one either side of three-quarter-time - to give the Blues a 23-point lead and have Bushpigs chasing four goals to keep their season alive.
Against the breeze, they threw everything at it.
Noonan's second - a checkside from the pocket - had them within eight points with a couple of minutes to play, and a Brayden Ambler shot on the run from 50 metres threatened to make it very interesting only to fade for a point.
Mostly, they were forced wide or hurried going forward and kicked 2.4 for the term to come up short.
Three goals each to Weetra and Mathews were valuable for the Blues but their win was set-up at the other end, led by Morton taking plenty of marks across half-back.
"I thought our backline was rock-solid. Tom Morton played well, cutting everything off," Carroll said.
"We could see they were trying to run us off our feet, they were working pretty hard, so it was good."
Darcy Mader was superb in the ruck, and Steele's influence invaluable in a strong team performance.
Carroll said they were rushed at times early and were hurt by CSU's rebound until they settled into the game in the second term.
Mathews was nursing a sore hand but insists he'll be right for Sunday's game at Maher Oval, when they'll take on Temora, who they beat at Coleambally last month.
Midfielder Will Thorp had a huge game for CSU getting back to his best form, and Lou Miller was also strong, along with Wayde Archibald and Lachy Moore.