Albury held off a fast-finishing, but inaccurate Wangaratta Rovers in an Easter Saturday blockbuster.
The home team kicked seven successive behinds in the final term, while Albury nailed one of the few opportunities to grab a 10.14 (74) to 10.9 (69) win in front of a strong crowd of 1720.
"It comes down to taking your chances, we probably didn't take them in the first half and they probably didn't take them in the last quarter," Albury co-coach Luke Daly said.
The match could have effectively been over at half-time as Albury had 16 scoring shots to seven, yet led by just nine points.
The Tigers had pushed the margin to 22 points late in the third term when former Melbourne AFL player Matt Jones was sent off for 15 minutes and charged with striking Jake Gaynor in the back of the head.
Jones had taken a mark and was just about to play on in the centre of the ground when tackled by Gaynor.
The whistle blew and Jones appeared to think the kick would go against him for being caught in possession and he reacted in frustration, but he was going to get the free kick, which was then reversed to Gaynor.
On the scoreboard, playing a man down had no impact as Rovers launched themselves at the visitors.
However, a combination of wasted opportunities and strong defence held the Hawks out, who kicked a goal on the siren to cut the margin to five points.
"We knew they were going to come hard in that last quarter and we took it upon ourselves to keep a cool head and they did come at us and we did really well as a back six and as a team to hold them out," defender Jessy Wilson said.
Wilson was an underrated player two years ago, but he's now moved well past that and is a fine defender, while the ever reliable namesakes Luke and Shaun Daly were terrific.
Young ruckman Ben Kelly also took another step forward as a senior O and M player.
Tyler Roos was outstanding for the Hawks, racking up 30-plus possessions, Tyson Hartwig plays with similar desperation, while Sam Murray and Tyler Cornish showed class and grunt respectively.
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"We just butchered the footy, full credit to Albury, but the upside we got out of that game is huge because we didn't use the footy well and only got beaten by five points," Hawk veteran Sam Carpenter offered.
Goals: Albury: Jake Page 2, Jeff Garlett 2, Dean Polo, Fletcher Carroll, Riley Bice, Mitch Scott, Jim Grills, Brayden O'Hara. Wangaratta Rovers: Jayden Bear 3, Ryan Stone 2, Alex Marklew, Shane Gaston, Tristan Lenaz, Tyler Cornish, Jack Gerrish. Best: Albury: Shaun Daly, Jessy Wilson, Luke Daly, Jim Grills, Jake Gaynor, Ben Kelly. Rovers: Tyler Roos, Tyson Hartwig, Sam Murray, Cody Schutt, Will Nolan, Tyler Cornish.
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