Geelong were oh-so-brave but Richmond dug deep to extend their record-breaking run at the MCG in a thrilling three-point win.
The Cats kicked the last three goals of the match to trail by just four points with less than two minutes remaining on Friday night.
Gary Ablett had the opportunity to pull off a stunning come-from-behind win with about 90 seconds left but his running shot sailed wide.
The Tigers stood firm in the frantic dying seconds to score a 12.13 (85) to 12.10 (82) win and make it 19 victories in a row at the 'G in front of over 67,000 fans.
"They were pretty aggressive with their ball movement through the middle of the ground and they got some goals as a result," Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.
"It was a different challenge for us and one I'm glad we came through it."
Dustin Martin had 26 possessions and 10 clearances in an influential performance, while Kane Lambert was also important with 31 disposals.
The eagerly awaited Tom Hawkins-Alex Rance duel eventuated and Rance came out on top.
After back-to-back bags of seven goals, Hawkins managed just one major in the last quarter.
Daniel Menzel kicked three goals for the Cats but Jack Riewoldt was the most damaging forward on the ground with four.
Geelong started brightly but Riewoldt kicked two goals in the first quarter to help the Tigers to a 10-point quarter-time lead.
The first two majors of the second term stretched the margin to 25 points, but Patrick Dangerfield - who finished with 39 touches - led a stirring fightback.
The Cats trailed by five points at the main break then hit the front when Menzel booted the first goal of the second half.
But, as they so often do, the Tigers found another gear when challenged.
Stifling pressure and the almost inevitable turnovers fuelled a run of four unanswered goals that saw them lead by 21 points at three-quarter time.
Hardwick's men, who are the best finishers in the league, appeared to have the game in hand 23 points up midway through the last quarter.
But Geelong showed they're a finals-calibre team with a stirring late rally that fell agonisingly short.
"It was a pretty resilient effort really," Cats coach Chris Scott said.
"... We're disappointed but we're not discouraged with the performance.
"We had our chances to win ... we had the better of the game for big parts."
Joel Selwood (37 possessions) and Tim Kelly (36) were also outstanding for the Cats.
The Tigers will hit the road to take on Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in round 21, while Geelong take on Hawthorn at the MCG.