WARRNAMBOOL took 12 rounds to find itself in the Hampden league top-five but knows one lapse could see it fall straight back out.
A long, bending Harry Ryan goal helped the Blues topple second-placed Port Fairy and replace Terang Mortlake in fifth spot on Saturday.
The 13.13 (91) to 11.16 (82) victory came without injured talls Sam Cowling, Tim O’Keeffe and Andrew McCarthy.
Defenders Will Jacobs (hamstring) and Bradley Bull (head knock) also finished the game on the sidelines.
First-year coach Matt O’Brien said the Blues’ arrival in the top five was the ideal reward.
“It is pleasing. It’s ahead of schedule actually,” he said.
“When we were 0-5 and I was still eyeing off the five, I had us in there by round 18.
“To get in at this stage (is pleasing) but we’ve got some good teams coming up.
“If we drop off 10 per cent, we lose, it’s as simple as that.”
Warrnambool made an electric start at Reid Oval, delighting their past players’ function with a five-goal-to-one opening term.
Dynamic forward Luke Cody, who finished with five goals, kicked the bookends as Ryan, first-gamer Bill Quinlivan and small forward Kurt Lenehan hit the scoreboard.
Port Fairy, with Sandy Robinson and Matt Sully prominent, responded and had edged four points clear by the final change.
But the Blues weren’t to be denied.
Scores were tied late in the final term. Ryan’s sealer put the Seagulls 11 points clear.
Ryan, 17, said he was thrilled to play a role in the win.
“It was coming down off the wing and I just got a mongrel punt over the top and it fell in my hands and I was about 35-40 metres out and had to have a ping,” he said.
“When it nearly got called a point on the line I was a bit hesitant but it went over and the central umpire called it a goal.”
Port Fairy coach Dan Nicholson, who missed the game with general soreness, rued the Seagulls’ poor start.
Injuries to Kaine Mercovich (ankle) and Nick Sheehan (knee) compounded their woes.
“It wasn’t up to the standard that we want over four quarters,” Nicholson said.
“We let them get the jump on us in the first quarter really badly.
“Our last three quarters were fairly strong. There’s always going to be ebbs and flows in a game.”