Benalla can book its September plans for the fifth season in a row after a crucial 13-point win at Echuca on Saturday.
The fourth-placed Saints went two games and percentage clear of the Murray Bombers, with their ninth win of the season setting them up for another tilt at finals.
Luke Morgan’s side did not have it all its own way, with Echuca storming out of the blocks with three goals in no time.
The home side went into the first change 18 points clear after putting five goals on the board.
But that is when the Murray Bombers’ run ended as they scored just four goals for the rest of the contest.
The result could come back to haunt Andrew Briggs’ side as it sits a game and significant percentage off Rochester in sixth on the ladder.
Morgan called it a ‘‘brilliant win’’ for his side.
‘‘We were three goals down and had played poorly, we couldn’t get our hands on the ball and Echuca was playing some good footy,’’ Morgan said.
After starting down back, Brody Webster was swung forward in the second quarter with great effect.
The exciting Webster slotted five goals and was supported with three from Jordan Wolff.
But Wolff went down with a knee injury, continuing his interrupted season and spent the second half off the field.
‘‘The win was made even more impressive to do it without Jordan playing after half-time, it was a real gutsy win up there,’’ Morgan said.
Morgan lauded Aaron Blackburn’s efforts for the job he did on Morrison medallist Simon Buckley.
Buckley still found plenty of the ball, but Blackburn was able to quell his usual imposing influence.
David Mennen, James Marchbank and Jayden Guppy were also excellent for the Saints.
Echuca was not helped before the game when star ruckman Kane Morris pulled out, while Sam Toulmin went down in the warm-up.
Caleb Smith was brought in as a late replacement for Toulmin after already playing in the reserves.
The Murray Bombers also have Daniel Willis, Tim Allan and Cam Valentine on the sidelines, while Liam Wilkinson was in their best after missing the win against Euroa.
‘‘We started really well, but they just dominated in inside 50s and you’re not going to win too many games with such a discrepancy there,’’ Briggs said.
‘‘It was a good battle of the depth of lists, with a few out from both sides, but they showed they’re a bit more willing.’’
Buckley was named Echuca’s best, while Tyler Phillips, Wilkinson, Will Murnane, Bart Phillips and Brent McGrath stood tall.