NORTH Central rivals St Arnaud and Donald will meet for the second time this season at Donald Recreation Reserve on Saturday.
The Saints have held the upper hand in recent years, most recently in a 10-goal round one triumph, which extended their winning streak against the Royal Blues to seven matches.
The Royal Blues will look for their first win of the season.
Coach Paul Brooks said not to count his side out of contention.
"When we look back at it, it's the smallest margin we've had all year and it was just five or six-minute lapses that cost us," he said.
"We've just got to stay positive, keep working on the areas that have been letting us down and keep improving.
"St Arnaud is always a really hard side to stop when it's confident and we'll have to be really prepared to stop its run or the team would run away with it."
Brooks said the Royal Blues would have to find replacements for Sam Goldmsith, who will miss with injury, and Brent Gilmour, who will undergo wrist surgery and miss the rest of the season.
Royal Blues Luke Carr and Daniel Pearce have been in good form, while star Glenn Wyatt is set to play his second game back from injury.
The Saints will look to bounce back from a last-gasp defeat at the hands of Boort at the weekend.
Having slipped to fourth, a win against the Royals will be vital to maintain pace with Charlton and the Magpies, who are also sitting on 16 points.
Saints forward Daniel Needs, 28 goals, has been a star in front of goal as has North Central interleague representative Nick Coghlin, who kicked nine majors in his past two outings.
Saints president Brett Douglas said his injury-hit side would be wary of its opponent as it looked long-term towards a finals berth.
"We're keen to get back on the winning list for sure," he said.
"Donald has got a lot of strength in its young running players they haven't won a game yet but I'm sure they will soon."
Douglas said the Saints would be without coach James McNamee, hamstring, midfielder Nathan Brown, ankle, Jimmy Wray, knee, and Levi Berry, shoulder.
Boort will be full of confidence heading into its clash with ladder-leader Wedderburn at Cobram Estate Oval. The Magpies have won their past four matches and will face a rampant Redbacks outfit that is yet to be beaten this season.
Stopping Redbacks forwards Sam Barnes and Brady Herdman will be a must, while half-back Rohan McHugh has been in scintillating touch, warranting selection in an extended Vic Country 2 squad on Monday.
Wycheproof-Narraport will look to celebrate 50 years of amalgamation with a win over Birchip-Watchem at Wycheproof Recreation Reserve.
Both sides sit three wins outside the top four and a victory will be essential to their respective finals hopes.