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While Jumbo Smith leads his "sand hogs," or tunnel builders, digging under the East River in New York City from the Brooklyn side for a subway route, his rival, Nipper Moran, leads his men from the Manhattan side. When a worker collapses coming up the subway stairs, Pat Dodge, a reporter passing by, sees by the man's badge that he is a "Compressed Air Worker" and takes him in a taxi to an emergency medical lock for medical care. After Jumbo and his iron boss, Shocker Dugan, leave a decompression chamber, they help Pat take the worker to the doctor, who explains that she rescued him just in time. In gratitude, Jumbo and Shocker, both attracted to Pat, take her to a beer hall run by Amelia "Amy" Hardcastle, where the sand hogs congregate. Moran comes in and bets Jumbo $500 and Shocker $200 that he and his men will push them back to Flatbush when they meet in the middle. Pat tries to interest her editor in the competition, but she is fired for neglecting a horse show she was supposed to cover. She then gets a job with a Brooklyn paper and awakens Jumbo and Shocker at Amy's apartment with her first byline, a story about them. To celebrate, they go to the fancy Paradise Club. At the club, Jumbo experiences the "itch," a mild case of compressed air still in his body, and a brutish boxer, Hanley, taunts him. Shocker slugs Hanley, to the applause of onlookers. Later, in the tunnel, when the workers hit a snag, Jumbo orders them to use dynamite. The explosion starts a fire, and when water begins to pour in, Shocker argues with Jumbo to let the men go up. Jumbo remains adamant that they should fight the river back, so Shocker hits him on the head from behind with a bolt and knocks him out. Everyone but one man gets out safely, and when Jumbo recovers, Shocker tells him that a falling piece of timber hit him. Before they are to go out with Pat, Shocker puts "cow-itch" powder in Jumbo's shirt. When Jumbo starts to scratch, Shocker takes him to the doctor, and he is put into a decompression chamber. Shocker then goes alone to see Pat, and he finds her sketching Moran for an article. Jumbo discovers the itch powder and goes fuming to Pat's apartment. When Moran taunts Jumbo, saying that his men no longer know who to take their orders from after Shocker hit him, Shocker admits that he did it. Jumbo challenges him to a fight, but Shocker develops a case of the "staggers," and Jumbo and Moran carry him out. When Shocker recovers, Jumbo hits him and fires him. After a large "blow," a rupture in the tunnel that causes the water to pour in and the compressed air to shoot out, occurs and Jumbo does not come up, Shocker goes to help. Jumbo then comes out of the emergency lock, but when he learns that Shocker is still in the tunnel, he rescues him. He refuses, however, to enter the compression chamber with Shocker. Shortly after this, Jumbo's leg becomes paralyzed. When Shocker proposes that he and Pat leave the city to raise silver foxes, she says she will think about it. Amy talks Jumbo into giving his workers a pep talk to show that he is not disabled. When Moran interrupts and offers to call off the bet, Jumbo indignantly says he wants to double it. Moran then throws a glass of beer in Jumbo's face, and when Jumbo doesn't respond, his men look at him in disgust. Shocker realizes that Jumbo's leg is gone, and he reconciles with Jumbo. With a $5,000 bonus at stake, which Shocker wants to use to fix Jumbo's leg, Shocker leads the men to close the gap with Moran's men. As they are about to break through, Shocker lets Jumbo claw his way to Moran. They fight each other, and Jumbo knocks Moran cold. Outside, Jumbo is cheered as a band plays. As Jumbo, Shocker, Amy and Pat drive off together, Amy wins from Pat a bet of five dollars that the men would head straight for a tunnel.