There are few more dangerous AFL beasts than a Mick Malthouse-coached side with the odds against it.
Carlton will go into Saturday night’s ANZ Stadium semi-final against Sydney with the underdog status and growing confidence after making another comeback on Sunday to beat Richmond.
It was the third upset result in an absorbing opening weekend of the finals series.
On Saturday, Fremantle were superb in Geelong against the Cats and Port Adelaide’s fairytale season continued with their stunning boilover win over Collingwood.
Sydney’s ongoing injury woes and their bad qualifying final loss to Hawthorn on Friday night suggest they might be vulnerable.
But the reigning premiers also have become legendary for defying the odds and they will be a tough nut for Malthouse’s surging Blues to crack.
Certainly Carlton cannot afford the starts they have been giving to their opponents in the last few weeks.
On Sunday, the Blues rallied from 32 points behind early in the third term to beat Richmond by 20 points in an epic elimination final.
It is arguably Carlton’s biggest win since the 1999 preliminary final upset against Essendon.
They won 18.8 (116) to 14.12 (96) in front of a record elimination final crowd of 94,690, which was very pro-Richmond.
Carlton also rallied from 39 points down last week to beat Port Adelaide by one point and secure their finals berth.
The Blues finished ninth, but reached the finals, because of Essendon’s AFL penalty.
In round 21, Carlton were 30 points down against Richmond and won by 10 points.
“I’ve never, ever got past Tuesday and thought we couldn’t win a game,” Malthouse said.
“There’s been times on Monday I’ve been a bit shaky, but by Tuesday – I’ve got great belief in my team.
“If I don’t believe, how can I expect my players to believe?
“Right now, on those performances of the last month … that we will give ourselves a real chance of winning.
“They still owe their supporters and still owe it to their teammates who aren’t playing, to have a red-hot crack.”
On Friday, Sydney faded badly in the second half to lose to Hawthorn by 56 points and they will be desperate for Adam Goodes to prove his fitness this week.
Fremantle joined Hawthorn in earning next weekend off with a 15-point win over Geelong in Saturday’s qualifying final at Simonds Stadium.
It was a physical clash and several incidents will attract match review panel scrutiny.
On Saturday night, Port kicked the last four goals of the match to beat the Magpies by 24 points in their elimination final.
The Power will now play the Cats on Friday night at the MCG in the other semi-final.
The AFL have scheduled Fremantle to play a preliminary final in two weekends’ time against either Carlton or Sydney.
When Malthouse heard an AFL official say it would be a day game in Perth, he jumped in with the wish that it start as late as possible.
“Not that I’m jumping ahead – but the poor bastards who have to go over there … I’m just worried about the weather, whoever is in it,” he said.