Albury torpedoed any speculation it would drop off the top two with a stunning 19-point upset of premiership fancies Wangaratta on Saturday.
The premiers suffered their biggest loss (71 points) in a decade against Lavington in round two and this was their first major challenge since.
And, as we have come to expect from Albury, it responded in style with a 13.15 (93) to 11.8 (74) win.
"They limited our ball movement and they were effective when going forward, they outplayed us and credit to them," Wangaratta coach Luke Morgan said.
The Tigers' brainstrust produced a clever ploy, with a spare player always behind the play to repel the Pies' forward thrusts.
"They probably did utilise that space behind the ball really from the mids, so that's something we'll look at and try to improve on," Morgan said.
Elliott Powell is in the form of his career, claiming best on ground with another three goals, while Lachie Taylor-Nugent and Alex Jones snared two apiece in a superb team effort.
Jones only made his senior return against the Roos last round after missing all last year with a knee injury, so the prospect of him continuing to regain fitness and touch is another positive sign.
Co-coach Luke Daly was also outstanding, while Joel Mackie was strong and ruckman Dean Heta took a series of strong marks at one stage in a fine display.
The Pies were missing rugged on-baller Matt Kelly and Doug Strang medallist Michael Newton, two of the league's best players, although Albury was without another of the topliners in Brayden O'Hara.
In Newton's absence, Josh Porter was brilliant, drilling six goals.
Porter struggled with his kicking in the previous win over Lavington, but he showed that was just a one-off, also taking a number of trademark grabs.
Unheralded Luke Saunders was superb for the visitors, while defender Michael Bordignon was terrific.
"We kicked the ball back to them far too much and they hurt us," Morgan said.
It was the Pies' first loss.
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