Brisbane Lions midfielder Josh Dunkley's previous AFL shutdown job on Patrick Cripps earned high praise from Chris Fagan as one of the greatest individual performances the coach has ever seen.
And while Dunkley's latest dampening of the Carlton captain wasn't in the realm of that round-eight display, it was every bit as important to a Lions victory that meant so much more.
When just about everything went the Blues' way early in Saturday's Gabba preliminary final - leading to the visitors' five-goal head-start - Dunkley was a clear positive for the home side.
The tenacious former Western Bulldog had held Cripps to just two disposals by quarter-time while gathering eight of his own, plus two clearances.
Cripps, who was stuck on six touches to Dunkley's 17 by the main break, did manage some brief respite when he kicked Carlton's only goal of the second quarter.
But it came from a free kick given away by Lions defender Brandon Starcevich for high contact, when Dunkley had his opponent wrapped up at the base of a stoppage.
Acknowledging his bad luck, Dunkley offered a wry smile.
Cripps started next to fellow Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale at the opening bounce of the second half.
His tough night got worse when he immediately gave away a 50m penalty, kicking the ball away after a free-kick to Oscar McInerney.
It led directly to a McInerney goal that gave the Lions a nine-point lead, and from there the home side fought their way to a tough 16-point victory.
Cripps has looked sore at stages through the finals series, playing with protective padding around his torso, and was hurt by another big hit from Deven Robertson.
The 28-year-old Blues leader finished with 13 disposals and four clearances, and booted a late goal to take his tally to two and keep Carlton's flame flickering.
Dunkley, meanwhile, had 23 disposals, five tackles and five clearances, adding another influential performance to his stellar first season with Brisbane after a trade from the Bulldogs.
"He's such a great competitor and I think that's probably one of his best strengths," Lions teammate Cam Rayner told AAP.
"He doesn't like losing and since he first got to the club that was something that he started to drive into all of us.
"You can see by the way he plays how exciting it is and how dominant and strong he is.
"To do it against a bloke like Cripps, who is a Brownlow Medallist and has so much big game experience, it's awesome."
Coach Fagan now has another huge tactical call to make with Dunkley in next Saturday's grand final.
A job on explosive Collingwood star Jordan De Goey would make for a mouth-watering match-up, while silky playmaker Nick Daicos could also be in Dunkley's sights.
Whoever sees Brisbane's No.5 walk towards them at the opening bounce will know they're in for a battle.
Australian Associated Press