Altona holds all the aces going into the last round of the Western Region Football League division 1.
If the Vikings can beat Hoppers Crossing, they will secure the minor premiership and earn a free pass through to the second week of the finals.
The Vikings will also hold an all-important double chance from that point on.
But Altona will need to bring its A-game.
If it loses on home soil to Hoppers Crossing this Saturday, it will be Hoppers that takes all the benefits into September.
Altona and Hoppers Crossing set up their winner-takes-all final round showdown after leap-frogging defending premiers Deer Park in the penultimate round on Saturday.
“It’s completely changed [the scenario] for both Hoppers and Altona,” Vikings coach Saade Ghazi said.
“Finishing on top of the ladder is definitely an advantage and now we’ve got that chance.”
Altona was made to work hard for its 27-point win over bottom-of-the-ladder Wyndhamvale in tough conditions at Wyndhamvale South Oval on Saturday.
The Vikings had a small buffer on the scoreboard for most of the day, but only broke the game open in the last quarter, albeit with an inaccurate 1.9 to 1.0 for the quarter.
“They made us earn it,” Ghazi said.
“It was tough, a good hit-out, which is what you need coming up to finals.
“We were good enough at the end to win, which is the main thing, and got through with no injuries.”
Mitch Turnbull was the game breaker for Altona. Turnbull set up the victory with strong first half play and finished with four goals.
Turnbull is valuable for the Vikings because of his versatility.
“We’ll start him most games forward, but we know we can also play him back and through the midfield,” Ghazi said.
“We think Mitch is a really key player for us because he can play multiple positions.”
Brett Shiels and Trent Rafferty were willing to put their heads over the ball, while Jack Marlais racked up plenty of touches through the midfield.
Tom Szanyi produced a good negating role in the backline.
Altona’s rise back up to the upper rungs of the ladder can be traced back to a bit of “soul searching” after last season.
After making the preliminary final in 2016, the Vikings were tipped to contend last season, but failed to reach the finals in one of the disappointments of the season.
“A lot of questions were asked from the coaching point of view and player point of view,” Ghazi said.
“We knuckled down and did what we had to do. We brought a couple of new players into the club, not too many, we kept promoting our kids. I know there’s a lot of footy still to be played, but we’ve got three sides sitting on top of the ladder, so the footy club is in a good position.”
Meanwhile, Spotswood came away from its pre-finals tune-up with a 33-point win over Caroline Springs at Town Centre Oval.
In a game with only six goals kicked due to the conditions, the Woodsmen defence held the Lakers to just one goal for the afternoon.
The fifth-placed Woodsmen will host Werribee Districts at McLean Reserve on Saturday. Depending on results in the last round, the two sides could meet in the elimination final a week later.
In division 2, Parkside will meet Manor Lakes in the final round at Howqua Reserve on Saturday with the winner to advance to the finals.
Both teams hold an 8-9 record after Parkside lost to North Footscray by 30 and Manor Lakes beat Newport Power by 20 in the penultimate round.
In division 3, Braybrook sealed its finals berth with a 65-point win over Laverton.