Kiewa Sandy Creek breathed new life into its stuttering season with a convincing 35 point victory over finals bound Tallangatta at Tangambalanga on Saturday.
Questions were being raised about the Hawks' premiership credentials after they were mercilessly caned by raging flag favourite Thurgoona by 96 points the previous round.
But the defending premier rebounded strongly in its 11.9 (75) to 5.10 (40) victory.
Despite sitting fifth, the Hoppers once again fell short against a flag contender to take its record to 1-5 against sides in the top five.
The Hawks laid the foundations for the victory when they were able to break even in the first term, kicking against the breeze.
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The home side then gained the ascendancy in the second term with the aid of the breeze.
Midfielders Ben Murphy and Jake Hicks created plenty of opportunities for key forward Mitch Paton who played deep in attack with regular spearhead Guy Telford out injured.
Paton thrived on the extra responsibility to finish with five goals and emerge as the most dominant forward on the ground.
High profile recruit Michael Thompson arguably played his best game in the brown and gold after returning from a shoulder injury.
Thompson had stints on both tall forwards Kaine Parsons and James Breen and was instrumental in restricting the Hoppers to a measly five goals for the match.
Tallangatta was best served by midfielder Joel O'Connell, Tom Russell and Pat O'Brien.
The Hoppers sorely missed dominant ruckman Scott Spencer with injury for the second successive round.
Spencer is crucial to their structures and providing his midfielders with first use of the ball.
Premiership coach Adam Mudra said he was hoping the Thurgoona debacle was what the Hawks needed to spark them into action.
"Our performance against Thurgoona was not a reflection of where we are at," Mudra said.
"It was more a reflection of how good Thurgoona are if you don't come to play.
"Everyone knows Thurgoona is the side to beat, so we weren't the first side and won't be the last that cops a flogging from them.
"But I was thrilled with the way the boys responded and we had a great week on the track.
"There was a lot of focus on contested ball and our defence around the football.
"Particularly early in the contest when the game was there to be won.
"From a coaching point of view it was pleasing that everyone was prepared to put their head over the ball when it was their turn."
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