THE penultimate round of East Gippsland football finished with all players, coaches and spectators still not knowing exactly which teams will be taking their seasons into finals.
With one round to play, third-placed Stratford is still equal on points with Wy Yung and Lucknow, who are trailing on percentage.
Lindenow and Boisdale-Briagolong are safe, but the situation between places three and five on the ladder simply means one of either the Swans, Tigers or Magpies will have to miss out.
STRATFORD got the win it desperately craved against Boisdale-Briagolong, in what would have meant season-over if the Swans didn't get over the line.
Stratford kicked less goals than its opponent, but hung on to win 8.14 (62) to 9.6 (60) to claim third spot on the East Gippsland football ladder.
Despite sluggish conditions at Boisdale from a couple of day's of rain, the match opened up in a flurry, with seven goals kicked in the opening term.
The Bombers held an early lead but the Swans wrestled back some momentum during the second term to take an 11-point lead into the main break.
The Bombers kicked four goals in the third term to cut the margin back to within two points at the final change, while the Swans would have been hoping their inaccuracy inside 50 would not come back to haunt them as they had registered 19 scoring shots to 12 at this stage.
With its season on the line, Stratford defended manically in the final quarter and survived a few nervous moments to eventually get home by the skin of its teeth.
The win capped off a memorable week for the Swans, who welcomed an announcement for upgrades to change room facilities at Stratford Recreation Reserve the day prior.
Having defeated the side which was on top of the ladder heading into the match, the Swans will now have to repeat the effort this week against Lindenow.
Gavin Bickery was best afield for Stratford in just his fourth game for the season and received good support from Brad White and Jordan Robertson.
Dylan Alexander was best for Boisdale-Briagolong, along with Nicoll Sandison and Josh Hegarty.
A FOUR-goal final term gave Lucknow a 7.7 (49) to 3.6 (24) win over Wy Yung.
The Magpies kept their finals dream alive by overcoming a slow start to hand the Tigers a loss on their home deck.
Wy Yung began the better side and proved more efficient inside 50. Both teams had three scoring shots in the opening term, however, Wy Yung was able to take a 10-point lead having registered 2.1 (13) to 0.3 (3).
Lucknow got back on track in the second quarter and took a slender lead as teams retreated from the cold and inside the change rooms.
In an abysmally dour third quarter, Wy Yung registered the only two scoring shots for the quarter, both behinds, as the Wy Yung oval turned into a virtual slip and slide.
Needing to dig deep in the fourth, Lucknow found the answers it was looking for, and got itself into a winning position which ultimately demoralised Wy Yung as the margin grew to beyond touching distance given the conditions.
Best players for the Magpies were Andrew Nelson, Damien Hodder and Ash Smith. Wy Yung found honest contributions from Shaun Mooney, Alex Crowe and David Wadddell.
Both sides will begin favourites when the regular season draws to a close this weekend in what will be crucial matches to each team's finals aspirations.
Lucknow will play the winless Orbost-Snowy Rovers, and may need to win by a triple figure margin to assure itself of a place in the finals.
Wy Yung will play second bottom side Lakes Entrance and will be faced with a similar prospect.
LINDENOW went to the top of the ladder after a comprehensive 16.21 (117) to 4.5 (29) win over Paynesville. Despite trailing at quarter-time, the Cats did as they pleased as the match wore on and the result became a foregone conclusion by three-quarter-time.
With Paynesville looking to finish its season off with some pride, the Gulls competed strongly in the first quarter before the flood gates opened.
Lindenow kicked six goals in the second term to effectively snuff out any hopes Paynesville may have had, as the Cats proved too strong in all departments.
Darren Allen was best-on-ground for Lindenow, kicking half a dozen majors and was given good supply from Will Blackley and Rohan Blandford. Liam Rathman played his best game for the season for Paynesville and Aaron Cameron and Jesse Guarnaccia battled hard.
ORBOST-Snowy Rovers probably missed its final chance to win a match in 2019, going down to Lakes Entrance 4.3 (27) to 7.14 (56).
The Blues held strong for the first three quarters, before the Seagulls kicked three goals to none in the final term to make sure of the result. The Blues trailed at every change but were in the game as the biggest margin for the first three quarters was only 13 points.
Orbost-Snowy Rovers took some momentum heading into the fourth after it kept Lakes Entrance goal-less in the third term. Just nine points was the difference at the final change, however the Seagulls, thanks to James Gibbs' four goals and experience, was able to get the job done in the end.
Best players for the winners were Jordan Cullen, Liam Carroll and Tom Smith.
Hamish Nettleton was again best on for the Blues, along with Jason Eaton and Quinn Christy.