THE SYDNEY Swans have survived a furious Carlton comeback to scrape home by 22 points in a tough contest at a waterlogged SCG on Friday night.
The Swans led by 34 points just before halftime and held the Blues to just one goal at the main break, but Mick Malthouse's side battled all the way back to pull within seven points early in the final quarter.
In one of the most intense games of the season so far, the teams then traded a series of behinds before goals to Ben McGlynn and Tom Mitchell sealed an 8.17 (65) to 5.13 (43) victory.
It is an important win for the premiers, who bounced back from their shock defeat to Port Adelaide to stay right in the hunt for the top four.
The Blues were admirable in defeat, but that will do little to appease Malthouse, whose outfit has slipped to 6-7 for the season ahead of next Friday’s critical clash with Collingwood at the MCG.
Afterwards Swans coach John Longmire seemed unperturbed by Carlton's comeback, pleased only his side was in front at the final siren.
"That happens. They're a good team, and they've got some gun players all over the ground," he said.
"You're not going to have it all your own way.
"AFL footy is a momentum game. They got it in the third quarter, but I thought the ability of our senior players to stand up in that fourth term and change it back was really important."
Ryan O'Keefe (29 possessions, seven tackles) shaded Chris Judd (23 possessions, nine tackles) in a terrific duel, although the Swan had help from Kieren Jack and Luke Parker at times in attempting to quell the former Carlton skipper.
Craig Bird, Luke Parker and Mitchell were also influential for the home side, while Kurt Tippett and McGlynn kicked two goals apiece.
Lachie Henderson was a dominant presence in the backline for the visitors, with Bryce Gibbs and Matthew Kreuzer busy throughout the night, but they fell just short of a critical victory.
"We haven't trained or played in the wet for months, so it was always going to be a while to adjust to the conditions. Sydney did," Malthouse said after the match.
"We gave up the first quarter and when you give up the first quarter – four-odd goals down – on a night like this, it is very hard to drag it back."
Mitch Morton (quad) was a late withdrawal just before the opening bounce, giving Ted Richards' younger brother Xavier his debut and taking to nine the number of 2012 premiership players missing for the Swans.
They had five first-year players on show – Dane Rampe, Mitchell, Jed Lamb, Brandon Jack and substitute Richards – but none of it bothered the Swans, at least in the first half.
The Blues had made the better start, yet from the 10-minute mark of the first quarter, the premiers clicked into top gear.
Goals from Jude Bolton, Mike Pyke and Parker broke the game open, and Tippett's contested mark and first goal at his new home ground then helped the Swans to a 27-point quarter-time lead.
The game descended into a complete slog in the second quarter as the rain teemed down, with Tippett's terrific snap from 45 metres the only goal until the Blues finally got their first in controversial circumstances.
Nick Malceski had possession right on the goal line and attempted to skip past Josh Bootsma, who pushed him over the line.
Umpire Robert Findlay somehow decided to call it a deliberate rushed behind on the Swans defender, gifting Bootsma and the Blues a goal, much to the disbelief of fans and commentators alike.
Longmire admitted to being "a little bit surprised" by the decision.
"I saw it. Absolutely I saw it. I saw it about three times," he said.
"I watch a fair bit of footy and haven't seen too many of those paid this year."
Following an almighty Malthouse spray, the Blues then battled their way into the contest, kicking three goals to one to trail by just 13 points at the last change.
But the Swans were able to muster one last push to lock up the important four points.
James Dampney is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_JD
Debutant Xavier Richards and Kurt Tippett celebrate Sydney's ninth win of the season. Picture: AFL Media
SYDNEY SWANS 4.6 5.9 6.11 8.17 (65)
CARLTON 0.3 1.5 4.10 5.13 (43)
Sydney Swans: Tippett 2, McGlynn 2, Bolton, Pyke, Parker, Mitchell
Carlton: Bootsma, Armfield, Gibbs, Lucas, Tuohy
Sydney Swans: Bird, McGlynn, O'Keefe, Mitchell, Tippett, T. Richards
Carlton: Judd, Gibbs, Simpson, Kreuzer, Walker, Henderson
Sydney Swans: Morton (quad)
Sydney Swans: Jesse White replaced by Xavier Richards in the final quarter
Carlton: Simon White (ankle) replaced by Chris Yarran in the third quarter
Umpires: Rosebury, Findlay, McInerney
Official crowd: 25,349 at the SCG