Jobe Watson has given Essendon fans plenty to smile about in his AFL return but couldn't stop Collingwood from stealing a 11-point preseason win.
The Magpies trailed by 23 points at three quarter-time but came out surging in the final stanza, booting four straight majors - including two supergoals - to steal back the lead.
Essendon answered back through livewire Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Orazio Fantasia, who booted his fourth major.
But two late goals to Magpies midfielder Jordan De Goey sealed a 2.13.9 (105) to 0.14.10 (94) win in the preseason opener.
The Bombers appeared to struggle with fatigue in the final term but there was still plenty to like for the Essendon faithful.
Former skipper Watson gathered 19 disposals and looked in excellent touch.
Watson was one of six Bombers making their comebacks after serving doping bans for all of last season alongside new captain Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley, Travis Colyer, David Myers and Ben Howlett.
Heppell was quiet by his usual standards but worked his way into the game, Colyer booted two handy goals and Hurley was solid down back before sitting out the second half.
But it was Watson's performance at the coalface that impressed most.
The 32-year-old could have been forgiven for being off his game after missing a season of footy and suffering the indignity of being stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
But he was a clear standout in the Bombers midfield and combined well with outstanding youngster Zach Merrett (25 touches), who looks set to take his game to a new level this year.
De Goey (22 touches) and impressive second-year midfielder Tom Phillips (24 touches) starred for the Magpies, who rested Scott Pendlebury, Adam Treloar and Taylor Adams.
Jamie Elliott kicked a goal on his return from a career-threatening back injury and Greater Western Sydney recruit Will Hoskin-Elliott booted two majors in his Collingwood debut.
Essendon's No.1 draft pick Andrew McGrath made a quiet start but showed plenty of composure and looks likely to earn a round one debut.
It was a similar story for Collingwood's Josh Daicos - the 18-year-old son of Magpies legend Peter Daicos - who came on for the second half and showed good signs after failing to win a touch in his first quarter.
There was some bad news on the injury front for Collingwood, with luckless defender Ben Sinclair limping off the ground in the second quarter with a hamstring complaint.
'We would have liked to have got out of it injury-free but 'Sincs' has done his hammy so that's the worst part of it,' coach Nathan Buckley said.
'He's pretty sore. We'll get it scanned and see how he goes.'
Bombers coach John Worsfold was delighted to see his returning players back on the field and performing well despite the loss.
'It's another step forward for where we want to get to,' he said.
'I was really pleased with the way the boys, who were playing their first games for a long time, came out and played.'