After a dream run to premiership glory last year, the Melbourne Storm didn't have it all their way in 2018.
The NRL titleholders endured a rocky start in the post-Cooper Cronk era before slowly but surely climbing back to the top of the ladder.
A final-round home loss to the Panthers cost them the minor premiership, but they out-lasted Souths in a finals clash for the ages before powering into the grand final with a decisive win over the Sharks.
NRL.com takes a look back at every game the Storm played on the way to the big dance.
Round 1 - Storm 36 defeated Bulldogs 18
Played in Perth, it wasn't as one-sided as the score might suggest, as the Doggies stayed in touch well into the first half. Josh Addo-Carr scored two of his team's six tries and Cameron Smith was a perfect 6/6 with the boot.
Round 2 - Wests Tigers 10 defeated Storm 8
A week after upsetting the Roosters, the Tigers did it again, holding the home team to one Suliasi Vunivalu try to claim a shock win. Luke Brooks scored a 77th-minute try to seal victory.
Round 3 - Storm 30 defeated Cowboys 14
The Cowboys were still in striking distance midway through the second half before late tries to Will Chambers and Nelson Asofa-Solomona locked in Melbourne's second win of the season. Coen Hess scored both Cowboys tries.
Round 4 - Sharks 14 defeated Storm 4
Talk of the Storm struggling with life-after-Cronk intensified after the 14-4 road loss to their 2016 grand final opponents. The premiers couldn't get across the try-line and paid the price for poor discipline, as Chad Townsend kicked four penalty goals.
Round 5 - Tigers 11 defeated Storm 10
Not quite a carbon-copy of round two but pretty darn close. Defence ruled the day, as the Tigers scored two tries to Melbourne's one. Benji Marshall's clutch 73rd-minute field goal left the Storm's record at a very un-Melbourne-like 2-3.
Round 6 - Storm 40 defeated Knights 14
Weeks of inconsistent performances gave way to the Storm's most electric display of the season. Vunivalu and Addo-Carr bagged two tries apiece in the runaway home win, but a greater test loomed the following week in Brisbane.
Round 7 - Storm 34 defeated Broncos 20
Up 18-6 at half-time, the Storm allowed the Broncos back into the game before a devastating three-try blitz in 12 minutes put the game to bed. Billy Slater and Addo-Carr crossed for two tries each and a 4-3 record looked a lot more respectable on the ladder.
Round 8 - Storm 50 defeated Warriors 10
The Warriors arrived in Melbourne brimming with confidence, only to be demolished by a merciless Storm. Addo-Carr and Ryley Jacks each claimed try doubles, while Cameron Smith kicked 9/9 goals. Cooper who?
Round 9 - Dragons 34 defeated Storm 14
Back to the drawing board? Not exactly, but the heavy road loss to the then competition leaders left coach Craig Bellamy feeling his team had a lot of work to do, especially with Origin just around the corner.
Round 10 - Storm 28 defeated Titans 14
With the previous week's trouncing still smouldering in their psyche, the Storm fell behind 14-8 at half-time before responding to Bellamy's roasting and holding the Titans scoreless in the second half.
Round 11 - Sea Eagles 24 defeated Storm 4
Fight night. This was the game when Curtis Scott channelled his inner brawler and copped a two-week ban for using Dylan Walker's face as a punching bag. Footy-wise, Manly crossed four times to spring one of the upsets of the season.
Round 12 - Storm 7 defeated Cowboys 6
A very narrow win in a very dour game against a very desperate Cowboys side. Cameron Smith scored a first-half try and kicked a penalty goal in the second half. Kyle Feldt's converted try tied it up before Cameron Munster kicked a match-winning field goal eight minutes from full-time.
Round 13 - Bye
With seven wins from their first 12 games, the report card was a B-minus and the never-satisfied Bellamy used the week's break to tinker with a few things.
Round 14 - Storm 32 defeated Broncos 16
After facing an early 12-2 deficit, the home team clicked into gear with four unanswered tries to have the game in their keeping midway through the second half. The Broncos made one last charge before Jahrome Hughes scored to clinch Melbourne's eighth win.
Round 15 - Storm 28 defeated Knights 10
A Kalyn Ponga-inspired Knights put up a fight deep into the second half and were never out of striking distance. But the Storm's clinical precision and a pair of Addo-Carr tries were too much for the Knights to handle.
Round 16 - Storm 9 defeated Roosters 8
Held at Adelaide Oval, the only meeting between the Storm and Roosters was a predictable arm-wrestle. It was 2-2 at half-time and wasn't decided until Cam Smith's clutch field goal two minutes from full-time. It was their third straight win and boosted their record to 10-5.
Round 17 - Storm 52 defeated Dragons 30
An end-to-end, no defence shootout between two teams missing their Origin stars. The points flowed early and never stopped, as the Storm ran in nine tries to the visitors' five. Suddenly Melbourne were perfectly placed for a shot at back-to-back premierships.
Round 18 - Storm 14 defeated Sea Eagles 13
Revenge was sweet after their round 11 home loss to Manly. The Sea Eagles were on track for a rare season sweep of the Storm when they led 13-6 at half-time. But that's when the fun stopped, as Melbourne stole victory with Smith's 71st-minute penalty goal.
Round 19 - Storm 12 defeated Warriors 6
A high-scoring clash was on the cards after both teams scored early tries. But defence dominated attack for the final 70 minutes and the Storm marched to a seventh straight win to stay snapping at the heels of competition leaders Souths.
Round 20 - Storm 44 defeated Raiders 10
It was over well before half-time, as the Storm made it eight wins on the trot. The home team scored seven tries, with Curtis Scott collecting a double. The premiers had bigger fish to fry the following week.
Round 21 - Rabbitohs 30 defeated Storm 20
Everything basically went to plan in the first 35 minutes as the Storm built a 16-6 lead in this highly anticipated heavyweight bout. But a Damien Cook-inspired Bunnies did what no-one almost ever does to Melbourne - come from behind to win. Addo-Carr scored two tries for the Storm.
Round 22 - Sharks 17 defeated Storm 14
Back on home turf but Melbourne fell for the second time in 2018 to a hungry Sharks outfit. Vunivalu's second try with eight minutes remaining set up a thrilling climax but the Sharks wouldn't be denied. Payback would come down the track.
Round 23 - Storm 20 defeated Eels 4
A game that never reached any great heights but the home team did what they had to do against the eventual wooden spooners. It would've been a shutout if Clint Gutherson hadn't been awarded a very questionable try.
Round 24 - Storm 10 defeated Titans 8
Played in wet conditions on the Gold Coast, it wasn't exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff. The Titans led 8-0 at half-time but were gradually worn down by the visitors. Scott and Munster scored a try each and teenager AJ Brimson crossed for the Titans' only try.
Round 25 - Panthers 22 defeated Storm 16
With Munster and Slater resting with minor injuries, the Storm blew the minor premiership with the final-round loss, finishing second on the ladder behind the Roosters. Penrith dominated the second half, scoring four tries. Nathan Cleary endured a rare off night, missing all five conversion attempts.
Qualifying semi-final - Storm 29 defeated Rabbitohs 28
A classic post-season battle of ever-changing fortunes, as the lead repeatedly changed hands from start to finish. The Rabbitohs looked like they'd done enough but they dropped their guard and were punished for it. Cheyse Blair's converted try locked it up at 28-28 with five minutes to play before Munster booted a wobbly field goal for a memorable win.
Preliminary final - Storm 22 defeated Sharks 6
It was Luke Lewis's last game in the NRL and could end up being Slater's farewell gig if he is suspended for a shoulder charge. If it is the 35-year-old fullback's final fling he went out with a bang, scoring two tries and racking up 10 tackle breaks and two line breaks. Melbourne have qualified for their third straight grand final.
Match Highlights: Storm v Sharks - Finals Week 3; 2018
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