Perennial South Melbourne scourge, John Markovski, threw Carlton a last-gasp lifeline with an injury-time goal to turn to one what would otherwise have been a solid two goal deficit, and so set up next week's return-leg at Bob Jane as a still open encounter.
With Carlton trailing 1-2 going into that match, it'll give the coaches, players and supporters of both sides plenty of matter to consider when determining the sides' possible tactics.
What's clear is this: Carlton need to win by two goals or more, or score three or more if they win by one. But converting chances hasn't been Carlton's strength - being meagre at the back has.
In contrast, South's defensive frailties are well documented, but its attack is the most productive in the League.
Were today's score-line reversed, these two sides could apply their respective usual tactics and rely on their usual records without further consideration. But now both have to diversify.
Carlton's task next week would have been much tougher without Markovski's goal, and as the match got well into injury time, maybe some complacency in South's defence had set in. In the ninety minutes before, they had adequately coped with Carlton's offensive threesome, and had netted twice themselves.
The first was after 25 minutes when sustained pressure told on Carlton's back line, and a ball finally came Paul Trimboli's way when he was scarcely ten yards out. His shot whisted home. Carlton had a defender prone to Trimboli's goal-side, but otherwise he faced only the keeper.
A Simon Colosimo error was to let John Anastasiadis through for the second. Colosimo let a ball run that he may have cleared, but in finessing the move, he slipped allowing an Anastasiadis family show-down. John was able to shoot past brother Dean and South were 2-0 up.
Bill Damianos should have made it three shortly before the break when he was sent clear by Anastasiadis. Damianos' shot was blocked, rebounded head-height, but his header into an unguarded goal went over.
The second half was to prove a midfield struggle, with both teams stringing passes together. South's were typical of its whole season - short, played to any free player, and one-touch - whilst Carlton's were longer and more direct, influenced by Carlton's need to scratch its way back into the game.
It looked like Carton's efforts were to be in vain, until Markovski found himself in space six yards out as a cross came over. With his header resting in the net, both sets of players and fans knew things were very much in the balance for next week's match-up and the first Grand Final spot.
But where was the Carlton support? An inaugural season home-leg Final and the crowd was announced as a mere 6767. Given that most of the Grandstand at the south end was away support, Carlton must be very disappointed at the turn-out. In the last home and away game at Bob Jane, in atrocious weather conditions, Carlton fans seemed to be more numerous that this afternoon.
The Carlton samba band should be commended for its presence. Especially over the warmer months, that could be a feature of Optus Oval matches (were OO to be made available to Carton next year, and were it to be deemed a suitable ground by the League - and I'm not backing either of these myself!).