Ask any Sydney Swans fan what their worst nightmare is, and just about every single one of them would tell you that it's Callum Sinclair going down with an injury.
In Sydney's 42-point win at the SCG on Saturday afternoon against the 17th-placed Gold Coast Suns, nightmare turned reality, with Sinclair dislocating his shoulder inside the first 30 seconds of the match.
To his credit - not to the Swans medical team for allowing him to continue - he returned to the field with a heavily strapped shoulder.
It wasn't long before he was back on the bench and out of the game, dislocating the same shoulder again while contesting a boundary throw in with Jarrod Witts.
Despite the injury, the Swans romped home to victory against the plucky Suns, with an 8-goals-to-2 second half to amazingly lift themselves into finals contention.
The Swans fought through a tough first-half contest, before blowing away the rapidly fading Suns to record their sixth win of the season.
The Suns had the better of the Swans early in the match, and looked like they were capable of repeating their stunning upset victory last year, with Alex Sexton booting their first goal.
Sinclair's injury, and Sydney's sloppy ball use early in the game gave the Suns a one-point first quarter lead, while Nick Blakey was the beneficiary of a massive front-on Jarrod Witts hit that will likely come under scrutiny.
Jordan Dawson celebrated his two-year contract extension this week with a stunning performance (28 disposals) that bodes well for the future, while co-captains Josh Kennedy (1 goal, 27 disposals) and Luke Parker (31 disposals, 16 contested) put on vintage displays.
With the Swans' ruckman missing for most of the game, they were forced to throw key defender Aliir Aliir into the ruck against Jarrod Witts, the leading hit-out ruckman of the season, while Tom McCartin moved from centre-half forward to centre-half back.
Witts dominated the contest against Aliir and was arguably the more influential player, finishing with 55 hit-outs for the match to Aliir's 8, while he finished with 17 disposals to 16.
Even with the Suns enjoying a clear advantage in the ruck, finishing the match with 40 more hit-outs (66-26), they failed to capitalise in the clearance department, registering just one more centre clearance (11-10), despite having 11 more clearances for the match (49-38).
Luke Parker (11 clearances), James Rowbottom (5), Hewett (5) and Aliir Aliir (4) lead the way for the Swans, with Parker and Aliir each registering 4 centre clearances.
Veteran defender Jarrod Harbrow did a superb job in stopping Sydney's live-wire small forward Tom Papley in the first half, limiting him to 8 disposals mostly in the defensive half of the ground, while Brad Sheer did a good job on Sydney's prolific ball-winning half-back Jake Lloyd.
Witt's influence grew in the second quarter with the Swans setup in the forward and backlines thrown into disarray, leading defender 12-1 hit-outs early in the quarter.
Gold Coast looked to take advantage of the ruck mismatch, with David Swallow and Anthony Miles taking it up to the Swans on-ball brigade, the latter drawing a free kick from an undisciplined Luke Parker off-the-ball infringement.
His set-show goal put the Suns 7-points up midway through the second quarter, before Parker turned from villain to hero, winning the centre clearance and drilling it long into Aliir's lap metres out from goal.
Aliir's first goal of the match, and his first of the season, followed by a classy finish by midfielder Zak Jones a minute later put the Swans back in front at the half-time break.
Callum Mills was a rock in defence for the Swans, with 6 marks to his name - 4 of them intercepts, while James Rowbottom and George Hewett laid 5 tackles each.
A four-goal-to-one third quarter, with Ben Ronke playing supplier and finisher for his second goal of the match, handed the Swans a 23-point third quarter lead.
Fledgling forward Nick Blakey kicked his second goal of the match late in the third quarter from another free kick in front, while Tom Papley finally broke free of Harbrow and slotted his first.
Papley's second goal of the match two minutes into the final quarter, virtually ended the match and the Suns' chances of a second upset win, and a couple to Isaac Heeney pushed the margin out to 7 goals, capping off a solid night for the Swans.
Will Hayward finally booted his first goal of the night with a minute left in the fourth quarter, celebrating his 50th game in style.
The Swans head to Melbourne to take on Essendon, who dispatched top-4 aspirants Greater Western Sydney in a scandalous fashion, with the significant aid of the goal review system. Without ruckman Callum Sinclair and superstar forward Lance Franklin, they'll need to dig deep and debut another player.
SYDNEY 2.2 6.3 10.6 14.9 (93)
GOLD COAST 2.3 5.5 6.7 7.9 (51)
Callum Sinclair dislocated his right shoulder in the first 30 seconds of the match. He returned to the field after treatment and dislocated his shoulder. He did not return to the field. Midfielder Jordan Dawson was seen after the match with ice on his leg, after hobbling from a contest just before the final siren.
SYDNEY Reid (2), Blakey (2), Papley (2), Heeney (2), Ronke (2), Kennedy, Hayward, Aliir, Jones
GOLD COAST MacPherson (2), Wright, Sexton, Scheer, Day, Miles
SYDNEY Dawson, Parker, Kennedy, Mills, Heeney, Hewett
GOLD COAST Harbrow, Swallow, Miles, Hanley, MacPherson, Scheer
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