Jordan De Goey returned from a 10-round absence in style as Collingwood survived some nervous moments to beat Gold Coast by 22 points and book an AFL finals berth on Monday.
De Goey kicked four goals and set up another while fellow returnee Adam Treloar finished with a game-high 26 disposals as the Magpies overcame the fast-starting Suns in a 10.8 (68) to 6.10 (46) Gabba win.
Ball-magnet Treloar hadn't played since round 10 because of a hamstring strain, while De Goey's scent for goal was crucial in his first game back from hand surgery in late July.
"I've said all along around personnel that it isn't going to be the difference and we're not waiting for the cavalry to come back," coach Nathan Buckley said.
"But when you see Jordy do his thing you understand how much we've missed him."
Collingwood needed to win to avoid a likely must-win clash with ladder leaders Port Adelaide in the final round to make the eight.
And it looked ominous early when Alex Sexton booted three first-quarter goals to give the Suns a five-point edge at the first break.
De Goey responded with three goals of his own by halftime, then lobbed again after the Suns had pegged back the lead with the first two majors of the third term.
The Magpies star launched from 50m off two steps, then marked strongly in a one-on-one with opponent Sam Collins to gift Brody Mihocek a goal.
The Suns, who kicked 3.9 after quarter time, got sloppier as the game went on and reached tipping point when an unaware Nick Holman was tackled while walking into an open goal.
It would have handed the Suns a one-point lead, instead it was the Magpies by 11 when Mason Cox immediately kicked a goal at the other end to close the term.
"We talked about, at three quarter time, do you want to respond and play well or do you want to respond and win," frustrated Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew said.
"We had opportunities, but the good teams make you pay and I think that was the difference."
Gold Coast started with intent when Josh Corbett threaded the needle for a three-point game.
But Cox rose again when he outmarked Caleb Graham, played on and audaciously bounced before he nailed his second and celebrated appropriately.
Jack Crisp then put Collingwood 16 points clear to finally create a buffer with five minutes to play to send the Magpies to the finals for a third-straight season.
"We would have set ourselves for top four at the beginning of the ear and that's where you want to get to for the double chance," Buckley said.
"But qualifying is the next best thing and we have now and we look forward to seven days time against Port ... one we can really attack."