JUSTIN Koschitzke made his most important contribution since joining Lavington this season when he almost single-handedly clinched a nine-point win against Wangaratta on Saturday.
The former St Kilda 200-gamer has played second or third fiddle up forward to the two Adams — Prior and Flagg — in most outings for the Panthers so far.
But with Prior limping to the bench in the final quarter and Flagg subdued, Koschitzke responded to hold off a gallant Wangaratta.
The Magpies fought back from 28 points down early in the third term to level the scores at the last change.
The scene was set for a thrilling final term and Koschitzke ignited the Panthers with two goals from strong marks at close range to make the deficit 13 points.
But the Magpies dug deep and two goals from key forward Joel Harris kept them in touch.
The pivotal moment came when Koschitzke was paid a free kick late and made no mistake to put the result beyond doubt.
The Panthers suffered their share of injury setbacks before and during the match.
Matt Pendergast was a late omission due to a bout of blood poisoning and the Panthers lost another ball winner Mitch Palmer before half-time to concussion.
Adam Butler was also wounded from a knock in the third term, Nick Meredith battled through a bad cork and Prior hobbled off late with suspected medial ligament damage to his right knee.
The absence of Pendergast and Palmer helped swing the midfield momentum the way of the Magpies.
Lee Dale added some extra grunt in his debut game and they also had great service from Daine Porter, Matt Kelly and Patrick Eefting.
Eefting helped sparked the third term revival with a brilliant goal on the run, but his day ended on a sour note with an ankle injury.
The Magpies had a poor second term, but the move of Matt Grossman to half-forward after half-time also paid dividends.
Grossman kicked two goals and Wangaratta also had a winner across half-back in the second half in Justin Hoggan.
Lavington’s defence stood tall late in the game with Will Lenehan, Brant Dickson, James Saker and John Hunt coming up with vital touches at crucial stages.
Panthers coach James Saker said he was relieved to get the points.
“We are not happy, but we were able to rally in the last quarter,” he said.
“We had some leaders step up against the flow.”
Wangaratta coach Mark Knobel said it was a missed opportunity to claim a top-three scalp.
“In the second quarter we went away from playing one-on-one footy and let them score some easy goals,” he said.