In the semifinal that pitted the team that had to overcome the shock of losing a star in a drug scandal against the team that had to overcome advancing years and a declining finals record, Geelong outstayed West Coast in a dour battle at the MCG.
The Cats were driven to victory by defender Tom Stewart and midfielder Patrick Dangerfield, who played last terms as Geelong kicked four goals to nothing in a powerful finish to prevail 13.10 (88) to 10.8 (68).
Cam Guthrie, included after the injury last week to Mitch Duncan, was a star.
Tom Hawkins kicked four goals, Esava Ratugolea three.
West Coast battled bravely back into the match after being jumped at the start.
They were lifted by a 30-disposal game from midfielder Andrew Gaff, who also kicked two goals.
Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and skipper Shannon Hurn were others who helped propel them back into the match, and Jack Darling booted three goals.
But after being rocked on the eve of the match by a doping infraction against Willie Rioli, the Eagles could not sustain enough energy for long enough to win this.
At the outset, West Coast needed to get a toe-hold to show they had regrouped from the shock of the Rioli saga.
The Cats needed a strong first quarter to erase the nightmare of slow starts in recent finals.
Only one team got what they wanted. The Cats came out slick and purposeful.
They moved the ball at angles and shifted the Eagles’ defence.
It wasn’t always quick and piercing but it was safe and effective. And it gave them early territory. By mid-term they had amassed nine inside-50s to West Coast’s three and were nursing a 19-point lead.
The Eagles looked flat and sloppy.
Chris Masten aimed a simple cross-ground kick to Shannon Hurn but missed and sent the ball out of bounds.
Mark Hutchings had Nic Naitanui to aim at inside forward fifty but missed. Naitanui took a shot on goal and missed.
The Eagles did get a steadying Darling goal mid-quarter but two late goals to sent Geelong to quarter time with a 25-point lead.
The Cats got as far as 31 points ahead twice in the second term but the tide was turning.
West Coast started to spread the Geelong defence wider and move the ball through the holes that opened up on the open spaces of the MCG.
Liam Ryan, who hadn’t touched the ball in the opening term, had a big second quarter with seven disposals and a goal.
The Eagles might have spread the game out on the park but they had jammed it up on the scoreboard, turning it into a 10-point contest at half-time.
They could have been closer had Ryan nailed a second shot at goal just before the main break.
The ball had lived in their forward half for most of the term and the match was on their terms.
And by three quarter time the scoreboard reflected that too.
Geelong had skipped away again early in the quarter off the back of a third Ratugolea goal, but West Coast surged with Gaff producing a brilliant 10 minutes of football that netted him two goals and gave the Eagles the lead.
West Coast were slicing through the Geelong zone by now, finding free players at will.
A 50-metre penalty against Sam Menegola for throwing the ball too hard at Eagles ruckman Tom Hickey in frustration just worsened things for the home team and gave the Eagles a seven point lead — their biggest of the match.
But the Cats rallied, with inspirational captain Joel Selwood getting them a goal back. They were close enough if good enough at the last change —there were just significant doubts over whether they were good enough.
But as it turned out it was West Coast that didn’t have enough left.
Geelong seized control with a preliminary final berth against flag favourites Richmond at the MCG next Friday night up for grabs. They kicked the only four goals of the final quarter.
Hawkins kicked his third and fourth goals to be the target the Cats needed to aim at.
And Dangerfield lifted mightily around the middle to give them impetus to go forward.
The Eagles, who had looked to carry momentum through the middle of the game, suddenly could not summon run and could not pick any holes through a miserly Cats defence.