First-year coach Sam Mitchell has admitted Hawthorn’s 12-point win over arch-rivals Geelong feels even sweeter than his earlier AFL triumphs.
Dylan Moore kicked four goals while Luke Breust produced a crucial late cameo, with the lead changing four times in the second half before the Hawks won 14.8 (92) to 11.14 (80) at the MCG.
Breust’s snapped goal in the final few minutes gave Hawthorn breathing space.
The veteran forward then got front and centre of a marking contest in the centre square before finding an unguarded Mitch Lewis out the back to kick the sealer.
The upset improved the Hawks’ record to 3-2, level with highly-fancied Geelong, and a spot in the top eight.
Hawthorn jumped out to a 23-point lead by quarter-time but lost ruckman Ned Reeves to a shoulder injury and looked gone when they were twice headed by the Cats during the third quarter.
The thrilling contest delivered another Easter Monday classic befitting the storied modern rivalry between the two clubs.
“The boys hung in there and right now it’s my favourite (win), but when the dust settles every win is valuable,” former Hawks midfield champion Mitchell said.
“There’s a part of me that says it’s four points and every game’s the same but obviously Easter Monday is a big day for our club and we’ve had a great rivalry with them over the journey.
“Right now it feels a little bit sweeter but we’re going to continue to have big battles against them and they’re going to be a good side for a long time, as they’ve proven.”
Young midfielder Jai Newcombe (31 disposals) starred for the Hawks and Tom Mitchell (33 possessions) shook off an early Mark O’Connor tag, while James Sicily was a rock in defence.
Mitchell had nine clearances with Josh Ward and Jaeger O’Meara also important at stoppages, while Jack Gunston and Lewis kicked three goals each.
Jacob Koschitzke and Conor Nash battled away in the ruck against Rhys Stanley and Mark Blicavs when Reeves went down before quarter-time.
Tom Hawkins, Tyson Stengle and Jeremy Cameron kicked three goals apiece for Geelong.
But Hawkins courted controversy when he appeared to exaggerate contact from Sam Frost in a third-quarter marking contest, winning a free kick and attracting the ire of Hawthorn fans.
The veteran spearhead faces scrutiny from the match review officer and a possible fine for staging.
“I think it was clear to see, I was outnumbered around the footy, I jumped and obviously (Sam) Frost is strong himself and it got me at a poor time,” Hawkins told the Seven Network.
“I know it’s going to be really controversial.”
Tom Stewart (27 disposals), Joel Selwood (26) and Mitch Duncan (25) had plenty of the ball for Geelong, who lost Jack Henry (foot) and Jed Bews (shoulder) to injuries.