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AFL admit umpire blunder in North loss

North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw didn't understand the free kick that gave Brisbane the decisive lead in Saturday's Gabba thriller and for good reason after the AFL admitted a blunder by the umpires.

The relentless Kangaroos led until the latter stages of the third term before Brisbane's weight of possession and field position seemingly had them on the way to a fifth-straight AFL win.

The Roos - chasing a sixth win from their last eight starts to keep them within a victory of the top eight - kicked two goals against the run of play to edge back in front in the final five minutes.

With scores locked approaching the final minute, Lions tall forward Oscar McInerney won a free kick against experienced Kangaroos defender Scott Thompson for an illegal shepherd.

He nervelessly booted a goal, with Hugh McCluggage's goal after the siren ensuring a 12.15 (87) to 12.3 (75) win and second spot on the ladder.

Multiple premiership-winning pair Cameron Ling and Dermott Brereton were among those to question the call in commentary, saying Thompson's bodywork was within the laws of the game.

Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield and Melbourne defender Steven May also backed Thompson, in posts on Twitter, while the AFL issued a statement on Sunday to admit the decision to aware the free kick was "incorrect".

Shaw was careful when responding post-game, before ultimately tipping his cap to Chris Fagan's side.

"That's certainly a difficult one ... it's interesting he marked the ball, but the pressure of the game, the players make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes," he said.

"I'm not sure I understood it, but that's just the way it is. I can't do anything about it now, the game's done.

"We gave away a lot of free kicks (in the third quarter), that were silly, undisciplined free kicks.

"That's not going to help ... and Brisbane brought the heat."

Brisbane could have been ruing a decision against them when North tall forward Ben Brown goaled after a contentious free kick just moments before McInerney's.

Fagan wasn't fussed though, supporting the officials and praising his side for finding a way past a valiant opponent.

The loss leaves the Kangaroos two wins outside the top eight but Shaw said that wasn't the focus.

"We play West Coast over there (next week), it's a huge challenge for us," he said.

"Yeah they (Brisbane) got us in the contest (162-133), peppered us in inside 50s (67-43); they're a top quality team but somehow we were still in the game at the end and that's a good sign."