The Goulburn Valley League top six is virtually set after the Shepparton Swans rallied to defeat Echuca by a goal for just their second win of the season.
The loss to the Swans has the Murray Bombers two games and more than 21 per cent behind sixth-placed Rochester, after the Tigers stunned Euroa on Saturday.
Andrew Briggs’ charges had the chance to put their foot firmly into finals contention across the past two weeks, but dropped games to bottom two sides Mooroopna and Shepparton Swans by a combined eight points.
Echuca faces an in-form Shepparton at Deakin Reserve before its bye, followed by Rochester at home and a road trip to Mansfield to round out the season.
The Murray Bombers fought to keep its season alive against the Swans, kicking the first goal of the last term to move 17 points ahead early in the quarter.
But the young Swans kept pressing with Jimmy Bennett slotting the match-winning goal, as his side ground out a tense final five minutes of the match to secure the win.
Sitting upstairs in the coaches box at Princess Park, coach Paul Griffiths and his assistants had to wait a moment before learning if Bennett’s kick sailed through the middle posts with the walls obscuring their view.
‘‘We went on the crowd and the reaction and everyone went crazy and with five minutes to go we held on,’’ he said.
Griffiths said he was ecstatic with his team’s determination to secure an upset victory.
‘‘It’s obviously a ripping result for us and in terms of the reward for effort with the group, the effort is unconditional with this group and there are no weak links, the effort exceeds talent,’’ Griffiths said.
Veteran Swan Andrew Riordan again showed his versatility, with Griffiths leaving him at one end of the ground all day, as he split his talents between attack and defence.
Emerging leaders Jared Service and Jayden Clarke were also pioneers of the win as Echuca star Simon Buckley was yet again one of his side’s most important players.
The reigning Morrison medallist has featured in the top three players for the Murray Bombers in all bar one game he has played this season.
But the Swans had a plan to nullify his influence as best they could and Griffiths was pleased with how it was executed as the team worked to curb his impact around stoppages.
With Quade Johnstone, Rhys Shannon and Jordan Gattuso late outs, thirds players stepped up to the challenge with Nathan Rachele making his debut in the senior side.
The Swans were three points up at quarter-time and 15 points ahead at half-time, with Griffiths thrilled his side was able to hold onto a game having been in front early.
Unlike last week against Benalla when the Swans had a buffer of 15 points at the first break before losing by 68 points, the team managed to run out the match.
‘‘To their credit Echuca hung on and they tried, but the boys were able to hold on and we’re slowly starting to build a brand and although we’ve only won two games, hopefully we’re laying a foundation for the future,’’ he said.