In the final quarter at Victoria Park on Saturday, The Rock-Yerong Creek looked like they'd let an important win slip from their grasp and, with it, any hope of a double chance in finals.
But in the final minute of the final quarter, they found a way to win it back.
A grass-cutting torpedo off the non-preferred right boot of Tom Collins - a backman thrown up forward for the final minutes - was the unlikely path to victory, swinging the 'Pies from three points down to three points up.
Then, with just 30 seconds left on the clock, they hung on for an 8.9 (57) to 8.6 (54) win.
In just his second game of seniors Collins made the most of his moment after the 'Pies desperately went forward in the last minute, and the ball went over the back of a pack.
"It was pretty good especially when Toddy (Hannam) gave me the handball. I was thinking, 'I better not miss'," Collins said.
"I'm a left-footer and I kicked it on the opposite so I wasn't real sure where it was going to go!
"It felt bloody good. Especially for the boys, they worked so hard all day. We shouldn't have missed the opportunity so I'm glad we didn't."
Collins nailed the assessment as well as his kick.
North Wagga led for six minutes early in the first quarter but not again until inside the last three minutes.
In a high-pressure affair, the Magpies controlled the game for longer periods, leading by a point at quarter-time, a goal at half-time and then 16 points at the last change.
But just when Saints looked done and dusted, they came out in the last determined to find a way to win. The 'Pies didn't allow them space to open up, but still they kicked three unanswered goals, including a beauty from the boundary by Ben Alexander (his second cracker of the day), and Nathan Dennis booted his fourth to hit the front in 'red time'.
TRYC co-coaches Brad Aiken and Heath Russell had gone from being pleased with their efforts to stay in control, to fearing a final quarter lapse was going to cost them in a big way.
"It was exciting," Russell said, offering up a contender for understatement of the year.
"We felt we'd probably played really strong footy all day but didn't take our chances going forward. Then all of a sudden the pressure was building when North Wagga went on that run and we were thinking, how are we going to the speak to the boys after this.
"Then Tommy Collins jags that one. So it's exciting, the heart's still pumping, but we also understand it's only four points in the scheme of things."
TRYC are now third, having won 10 of their 15 games. But if they can't beat Temora next week, they'll slip back to fourth and head for an elimination final instead of the qualifying.
The Magpies worked hard all day to limit North Wagga's ability to get into their free-flowing stride, but the Saints showed plenty of grit to hang in there even when the game was going against them.
They struggled to go cleanly forward, primarily due to pressure, but Nathan Dennis took four marks and kicked 3.1 from them, and then seized a loose ball and kicked his fourth for what looked like the matchwinner late.
At the other end, the North Wagga defence was tireless in trying to turn the Magpies around as the home side sometimes looked like getting right on top. But two 50-metre penalties in the second quarter hurt, leading to TRYC goals in a tight term.
Centre-half-forward Dean Biermann was a handful all day. He took four marks in the first quarter and worked in well with Riley Budd, who had a huge say in the game.
But the 'Pies looked like costing themselves with a 1.4 third quarter and only one behind to show for almost the entire last term and they burnt a few more opportunities inside 50.
"For us to have it on our terms, I felt, for most of the day, then get over-run, to then not drop our heads and find a goal in the last three minutes was really positive," Russell said.
"We spoke to the boys that this was a finals rehearsal and in finals you're not going to have wins handed to you. It's going to be tight. So there's lots of learnings in it for us."
Russell conceded they were beaten around the contest and in the clearances but was pleased with their pressure and a strong team performance that made sure North Wagga couldn't get on the outside and take the game away.
North Wagga coach Cayden Winter was disappointed in the finish to their home-and-away season (with a bye next week).
"We just couldn't play four quarters of footy. Our second quarter probably let us down. We weren't disciplined enough to man up all over the ground, and they were able to get uncontested marks which hurt us," Winter said.
"I thought our backline was super but once they get those uncontested marks, they get repeat inside 50s and it's hard to defend against for long periods.
"But being a young group, something we have learnt this year is that even when the chips are down, we can still win games of footy. We're getting more mature in that sense but we just weren't able to hold on in the end unfortunately."
Elliott Winter had a mountain of football, and coach Winter led well. Dennis was dangerous, Alexander battled hard in the ruck and hit the scoreboard at critical points and Matt Thomas marshalled their defence.
Saints will sweat on the Temora v TRYC game next week: if the 'Pies win, North Wagga will finish fourth and take on the Northern Jets in a do-or-die final; if the Kangaroos deliver an upset, the Saints will go back to third and meet East Wagga-Kooringal instead in two Saturdays' time.
TRYC 2.2, 5.4, 7.8, 8.9 (57)
North Wagga 2.1, 4.3, 5.4, 8.6 (54)
Goals: (TRYC) Shannon Williams 3, Cody Cool 1, Tom Collins 1, Jack Driscoll 1, Dean Biermann 1, Cooper Diessel 1; (North Wagga) Nathan Dennis 4, Ben Alexander 2, Cayden Winter 1, Corey Watt 1.
Best: (TRYC) Riley Budd, Aiden Ridley, William Adams, Dean Biermann, Joseph Hancock, Scott Wolter; (North Wagga) Cayden Winter, Nathan Dennis, Ben Alexander, Matthew Thomas, Corey Watt , Sean Keith.
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