Melbourne have put a huge dent in St Kilda’s AFL finals hopes, clinging on for a 24-point victory in an MCG thriller on Sunday.
In a fierce battle between two sides desperate to remain in the hunt for a top-eight spot, the Demons dominated early and staved off the fast-finishing Saints for a 14.12 (96) to 10.12 (72) victory.
The Dees led by 40 points late in the second quarter and looked set to claim an easy win.
But the Saints – helped by Jack Steven’s eight disposals and three inside-50s – switched gears in the third term, cutting the margin to 10 points at the final break.
Tim Membrey brought the Saints within a goal when he slotted his second major early in the fourth quarter.
But Melbourne found a response through Mitch Hannan, who stepped up with the game on the line after a quiet start.
The young forward steadied his teammates’ nerves with a sweetly-placed set shot, then moments later took a strong contested mark and kicked truly to put the result beyond doubt.
The result lifts Melbourne into seventh spot on the ladder, with 11th-placed St Kilda a win behind eight-placed West Coast with two matches remaining against North Melbourne and Richmond.
It was one-way traffic early with the Dees cruising to a five-goal lead at quarter-time.
With no Jesse Hogan or Jack Watts, and Tom McDonald starting in the backline, small forward James Harmes did the damage, slotting three majors in the first quarter.
Melbourne’s slick ball movement and ability to transition from the backline at high speed was in stark contrast to the fumbling Saints, who coughed up multiple goals from turnovers.
Ruckman Max Gawn had a rare off day, being well beaten by Saints counterpart Billy Longer, but Nathan Jones (35 disposals) and Clayton Oliver controlled the midfield battle.
The Saints lost prime mover Koby Stevens to concussion after a first-quarter collision with Demons midfielder Angus Brayshaw.
Brayshaw was outstanding in just his third game for the season, having spent a prolonged break on the sidelines after suffering his fourth concussion in the space of 12 months.