It was far from pretty, but under-fire St Kilda got the AFL result they so desperately needed as skipper Jack Steele led from the front in a 20-point win over North Melbourne.
Steele had 24 disposals, 12 tackles and seven clearances as the most influential midfielder on the ground in the 12.16 (88) to 10.8 (68) victory, played in front of empty stands at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
Saints utility Mason Wood kicked a game-high three goals in his first encounter against the club that dumped him at the end of last year, while Brad Crouch and Luke Dunstan were both valuable contributors.
But running machine Brad Hill had a team-low six disposals at half-back under close attention from Bailey Scott before moving up the ground late in the match.
Despite perfect conditions under the roof, it was a scrappy affair from the outset between two struggling sides.
Wood kicked his first goal as a Saint to get them off to a good start and they would have led by more than three goals at quarter-time if not for wasteful disposal in the front half.
The margin grew to 31 points by the main break, with Jack Billings and Tim Membrey kicking two goals each for the Saints in the first half.
Quick majors to Nick Larkey and Cam Zurhaar gave North a sniff early in the third quarter but the Saints steadied, booting the next four majors to put the result to bed before the final change.
Jy Simpkin, Ben Cunnington and Jack Ziebell worked tirelessly for North, while emerging players Tarryn Thomas and Luke Davies-Uniacke showed flashes of their class.
Ben McKay kept Saints forward Max King quiet but finished the match on the bench with a hamstring injury.
North kicked five goals to one in the final term to add some respectability to the scoreboard.
Umpire Simon Meredith went through a scary moment in the final term when Jimmy Webster accidentally kicked the ball into the whistleblower’s head from about 10 metres away.
Meredith was checked out by North Melbourne’s doctor, but completed the match.
St Kilda are due to host Sydney at Marvel Stadium next week but that clash is likely to be moved interstate because of Victoria’s latest coronavirus outbreak.
North Melbourne have the bye in round 12 before a scheduled date with GWS in Hobart on June 13.