Melbourne is in its best position to win a premiership for more than 20 years.
The Demons locked in a top-four spot with a thrilling nine-point win over West Coast at Optus Stadium on Monday night.
The end to the game was much more thrilling than where it was heading, though.
Melbourne had led by 33 points in the seventh minute of the final term when the game was delayed for almost 30 minutes due to a threat of lightning.
The Eagles returned the field much more switched on than when they left it.
They kicked 4.3 to the Demons’ 0.3 after the restart, but had to settle for a 10.12 (72) to 9.9 (63) scoreboard.
The result catapulted Melbourne back to the top of the AFL ladder, with just two rounds to play, thanks to losses to the Western Bulldogs and Geelong at the weekend.
It locks away their spot in the top four and with that comes a double chance in the first round of finals.
The Demons will finish inside the top four after the home-and-away fixtures for the first time since 2000, when they lost to Essendon in the Grand Final.
Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and James Harmes were the difference in a tight midfield battle with Dom Sheed, Tim Kelly and Elliot Yeo.
After winning their first nine games of the season, the result gave them consecutive wins for the first time since beating fellow finalists Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions in round 11 and 12 respectively.
All in front of Eagles
This was the Demons’ first win over West Coast since Round 22 of 2018, also played at Optus Stadium.
The Eagles recovered from that loss and demolished the Demons by 11 goals in the Preliminary Final before beating Collingwood the following week in the Grand Final.
It’s hard to see Adam Simpson’s men producing a form reversal like that in the remainder of this season, though.
The Eagles now have a poor 1-6 win-loss record against their fellow top eight sides this season, beating only Port Adelaide, in Round 3.
They have lost those six games by an average of 46 points, with 15-goal losses to Geelong and Sydney and a 55-point defeat to the Western Bulldogs.
They may need to beat either Fremantle or Brisbane to see September action.
They haven’t missed the finals since 2014, but their percentage is the worst of the top 11 teams, keeping Essendon and Richmond right in the mix.
Big Brown finding form
Ben Brown continues to show he wants to be a part of this Demons premiership push.
He kicked three goals on Monday night, following the four he booted against the Gold Coast last week.
Two of those goals came in the opening term, along with five kicks, four marks and two kicks inside Melbourne’s forward 50 as he set the tone for the Demons.
The first goal he kicked was just his 13th for the Demons, but his 300th in the AFL, in a reminder of what he is capable of.
He has now kicked 10 goals in four weeks since fighting his way back into the side.
Coach Simon Goodwin showed faith in Brown, leaving Tom McDonald out of the game, with conditions forecast and realised to be less than perfect for high-marking players.
Brown’s third goal was kicked on the three-quarter-time siren to give the Demons a 32-point lead.
It was an efficient term for the Demons, who had 10 scoring shots for the term, kicking 5.5 from 14 inside 50 entries.
Beaten at own game early
To West Coast’s credit, they lifted after being challenged in the opening term.
The Demons kicked three of the first four goals to open up a 20-point lead.
But the Eagles threw Melbourne’s own contested brand of football at them to take control of the game.
The Eagles led that count by 14 at halftime and were unlucky not to hold the lead at the main break.
They did hit the front, but after kicking 2.5 from 15 inside 50 entries for the quarter, the biggest lead they could manage was two points.
Melbourne was heading for its first goalless term for the season, but Kysaiah Pickett knocked the ball through for a goal from just inside 50m right on the halftime siren to give the Demons a four-point lead at the break.
Although the Demons have lost their last three games, to Collingwood, Greater Western Sydney and Western Bulldogs, after having trailed at the main break, they have only lost four second halves for the season.
EAGLES 2.0 4.5 5.6 9.9 63
DEMONS 4.2 5.3 10.8 10.12 72
ELBOROUGH’S BEST Eagles: Yeo, Kelly, Sheed, Redden, McGovern, Sheppard. Demons: Petracca, Harmes, Oliver, Neal-Bullen, Jackson, Brown.
GOALS Eagles: Cripps 2, Kennedy 2; Redden, Darling, Naitanui, Darling, West. Demons: Brown 3; Neal-Bullen 2, Melksham 2; Harmes, Petracca, Pickett.
INJURIES Eagles: Kennedy (knee), Hurn (leg) replaced by Langdon, Duggan (knee soreness) replaced in selected side by L Edwards. Demons: Hunt (ankle) replaced by Vendenberg; McDonald (back soreness) replaced in selected side by Jordon.
UMPIRES Dalgleish, Nicholls, Howorth.
VENUE Optus Stadium
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
BRAD ELBOROUGH’S VOTES
3 Petracca (Demons)
2 Harmes (Demons)
1 Yeo (Eagles)