NO-ONE will ever know how different this Port Adelaide-Geelong match would have played out had Port Adelaide key forward Todd Marshall stayed on Adelaide Oval rather than taken the concussion test in the opening minutes.
But beyond doubt is just how this Thursday night blockbuster was decided by potent forwards in an entertaining game that - as the Geelong club song proclaims - was played in the way it should be played.
Thirty-one goals. Quarter-by-quarter runs of nine, seven, five and 10 goals. Only in the third term did this match grind into a finals-like script with defensive walls (as noted with Port Adelaide entering its forward-50 zone just seven times).
Television executives will be pleased by the entertainment package delivered in prime-time space.
This game was about who could score - and who did the scoring.
Geelong triumphed with three game-defining forwards - Gary Rohan kicking 3.2, Greater Western Sydney recruit Jeremy Cameron delivering the perfect five goals and Tom Hawkins packing away some of the demons from last year's qualifying final (when he scored 0.5) with a commanding 4.4.
Port Adelaide had young half-forward Connor Rozee blow away the cobwebs with his 5.1, four in the first term; Charlie Dixon put up 4.1 in his 100th AFL game for Port Adelaide; and where was the third forward to match the Geelong trio? There was none to echo the third piston of the Geelong goalscoring machine.
In the third term, midfielder Ollie Wines was parked in the goal square (rather than taken to the bench) for a few plays. In the last quarter, first-year half-back Lachie Jones went to the forward zone that had been denied the team's leading goalkicker Orazio Fantasia (knee surgery to clean up a cartilage issue that first flared up in round 6).
But that third damaging forward to match the Geelong triple-treat did not emerge.
And there was some significant difference in how each forward zone was loaded up.
The Champion Data statisticians counted Geelong having 18 marks inside-50; Port Adelaide had nine ... and the Geelong defenders picked off many intercept marks too.
In the end, Port Adelaide conceded more than 100 points for the first time this season - and Geelong's 112 points marks the largest score against Port Adelaide since North Melbourne put up 144 points at the Docklands in that costly round 22 clash of 2019.
No-one will ever know what might have been had Marshall been part of the show with Dixon and young forward Mitch Georgiades (1.1 and two marks within scoring range denied by free kicks to Geelong defenders)
"Not efficient, effective enough," noted Port Adelaide senior coach Ken Hinkley.
So Port Adelaide falls short - by 21 points - again to a pacesetter.
"Good but not good enough against the best teams in the competition ... and we are not going to hide from that," added Hinkley.
"Good enough to challenge" ... and good enough to blitz with the first three goals of the last term to have a nine-point lead. But not good enough to go the distance, just as it was in the home loss by 19 points to the Western Bulldogs in round 9.
Good enough to have Geelong premiership hero and Brownlow Medallist James Bartel from his Melbourne radio commentary booth admire both Port Adelaide and Geelong for their "lesson (to other club) on how to transition and attack from defence".
Geelong certainly did it better for longer, and gained the benefit of its experienced players in tense, high-pressure moments.
Port Adelaide was handed more lessons. The post-match review will have enough material to show how - under pressure - Port Adelaide made more mistakes than Geelong while seeking critical plays out of defence. It is damaging to give an opponent, one that is already quite proficient in moving the ball swiftly from end to end, those extra opportunities with turnovers at half-back or in the centre square.
So the scorecard from a blockbuster, that could have been billed as a heavyweight clash, recognises Geelong did better than Port Adelaide in defence and attack.
And in the midfield where former Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak (27 disposals) gained more attention from his Geelong rivals than when they flew to town almost a decade ago with a sales pitch to join them at Kardinia Park?
The old, reliable barometer in Port Adelaide losses - contested ball - again favoured the opposition, 126-116. But it was far from the red flag of concern noted in earlier losses to West Coast, Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs.
This time, Port Adelaide won the centre clearances 16-14 and Geelong had the advantage at other stoppages, 24-22. The full clearance count was square at 36-36. These are marginal numbers. And Geelong coach Chris Scott did note Port Adelaide was "as good as any team" he had seen "around the ball".
Again, Port Adelaide being good. But not good enough.
So the work towards chasing greatness continues.