Kevin Glenn called the game a test, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats passed if only by virtue of being the last team to score.
The Hamilton quarterback threw for two touchdowns and the defence held on as the Ticats defeated the Toronto Argonauts 37-32 on Saturday night.
Glenn completed 22-of-31 pass attempts for 310 yards and no interceptions and the Ticats put up a total 399 yards offence in a game that featured five lead changes.
"It was one of those things that whoever had the ball last, it looked like was going to [win]," said Glenn.
Hamilton running back Avon Cobourne scored the game-winner with a three-yard scamper with 6:54 left in the game. That was set up by a 48-yard strike from Glenn to Chris Williams at the Toronto seven-yard line.
The defence then came up big late in the game when linebacker Renauld Williams tipped a ball meant for Argo receiver Mike Bradwell with Toronto trying to convert a third-down-and-five.
Justin Medlock's third field goal of the game, a 33-yarder with 1:21 left in the game, sealed the victory.
"It was good to get that kind of game at home, because it reminded me of the playoff game last year," said Glenn. "One of those games where it's going back and forth, back and forth. You've got to match everything that they do. And I think it was good for us because it was a test to see if we could do it. Especially with young guys. And we did it."
The Ticat defence contained one more Argo drive in the dying seconds for the win.
"I knew it was going to come down to some plays having to be made in the fourth quarter," said Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.
"That's just how the game was going. It was back and forth. We were scoring, they were scoring. I just had a feeling our defence would be able to step up late in the game and make some plays when necessary. I think that's what it really came down to. We were able to get some stops late in the game."
Toronto quarterback Cleo Lemon threw three touchdown passes in the wild affair as the Argos recorded their sixth-straight loss. Lemon had a good night offensively, completing 26-of-36 pass attempts for 368 yards with no interceptions as the offence garnered 506 yards. He left the game briefly when he cramped up in the heat.
"It's disappointing," acknowledged Lemon. "But just to see the fire in this team … that's one thing I'm proud of."
The Argos (1-6) entered the game hoping to stop a losing streak and that new defensive co-ordinator Orlondo Steinauer could inspire the league's worst defence to turn things around. It couldn't.
"When the offence isn't turning it over and we're giving up that many points, obviously we have to be better," said Toronto head coach Jim Barker. "Orlondo will learn from this and the defensive players will learn from this and we'll be better. We've just got to keep clawing away and scratching. There's a reason why we're going through this. We're going to be a good football team."
Toronto's Brandon Rideau scored two touchdowns, including a 69-yard catch-and-run, while Andre Durie and Cory Boyd, back after a four-game layoff due to injury, each added one.
Dave Stala scored his league-leading seventh TD for the Ticats, while Aaron Kelly, quarterback Quinton Porter and Cobourne each added one.
Medlock was good on three field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder that gave Hamilton a 20-18 lead heading into the locker-room at halftime. He also made a 37-yard field goal early in the game and his 33-yard game-sealer.
Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine was one-for-two, hitting from 19 yards, but missing from 20.
The teams will not be meeting in their traditional Labour Day game, so the intense rivalry was hyped up for this game, their only meeting this season at Ivor Wynne Stadium. The result was nine penalties in the first half, mainly for either unnecessary roughness, objectionable conduct or taunting.
Hamilton (4-3) wanted to rebound from a loss in Calgary last week in which they went scoreless in the second half for the second time this season after holding the half-time lead.
Hamilton extended its lead to 27-18 in the third quarter when Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 43 yards to the Toronto 14-yard line, setting up a one-yard TD run by Porter four plays later.
The Ticat defence looked to have stopped a Dalton Bell-led Argos offence with time running out in the third. But Hamilton was called for pass interference after defensive back Bo Smith knocked down an end-zone pass to Chad Rempel, and Toronto got the ball at the one-yard line, setting up Boyd's TD run to make the score 27-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
Hamilton thought they had recovered a Durie fumble early in the fourth, but lost a challenge of the ruling. Lemon, who had re-entered the game, soon after found Rideau racing down the right sidelines for a 69-yard touchdown and the 32-27 lead with 11:11 left in the game.
But the Ticats regained the two-point lead midway through the quarter with a 74-yard scoring drive that ended with a three-yard TD run by Cobourne. Glenn set up the score with a 48-yard pass to Chris Williams, who was all alone at the Toronto seven-yard line.
Toronto opened the game with an 80-yard drive on just five plays, ending with a 21-yard TD strike from Lemon to Rideau giving the Argos a 7-0 lead just 2:45 into the game.
Hamilton responded immediately with an 86-yard scoring drive that ended with Stala catching a league-leading seventh touchdown pass of the season — a 10-yard strike from Glenn to the goal-line. The score was set up by a 29-yard catch-and-run by Cobourne that put Glenn over the 30,000-yard passing mark for his career.
The teams traded field goals before Lemon led the Argos 86 yards downfield, hitting Durie with a 23-yard TD strike to take a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. But the Ticats got that back with an 84-yard drive culminating in a 10-yard TD pass from Glenn to Kelly.
A time-count violation nullified a Toronto touchdown drive late in the half, and Prefontaine missed his 20-yard field goal wide right with 39 seconds left. Hamilton moved the ball within Medlock's range in the final seconds, and the kicker was good from 50 yards to end the first half with the Ticats up 20-18.