A Brisbane side missing co-captain Jonathan Brown have had to battle hard to down Melbourne in a scrappy game in Darwin to keep their slim AFL finals hopes alive.
The Lions started slowly but took control in the second term to set up their 13.16 (94) to 11.9 (75) win in warm, humid conditions which made ball-handling difficult.
It was Brisbane’s third straight win, which lifted them to seven wins and nine losses, but still two games plus a large percentage behind eighth-placed Port Adelaide.
Lions star forward Brown was a late pre-game withdrawal with a hip complaint.
And with Brisbane also missing midfield keys Simon Black and former Demon Brent Moloney, Melbourne took advantage early, outscoring the Lions by nine points in the first quarter to create hope of an upset.
Melbourne big man Jack Fitzpatrick started the night strongly, kicking the night’s opening goal from a free kick on his way to three majors for the first quarter.
A minor knee injury late in the term curtailed his influence, although he played out the game.
But the Lions’ midfield took control in the second quarter, led by Tom Rockliff (34 disposals, seven clearances) and in-form Irisham Pearce Hanley (27 disposals, five clearances), while Andrew Raines kept Melbourne’s best midfielder Nathan Jones quiet.
The Lions kicked five goals to one for the second term to lead by two majors at the long break.
Jones was shifted forward to start the second half, with instant effect, as he marked and goaled early to cut the margin to a goal.
In a stroke of bad timing, the Demons lost defender Colin Garland to an ankle injury midway through the third term, just minutes after they had subbed off first-year player Jimmy Toumpas, who had managed just two touches.
But Melbourne continued to fight, twice getting within five points, including once from a brilliant Chris Dawes goal, after the big man gathered a ground ball, spun and snapped truly.
But a Brent Staker snap put Brisbane 11 points clear at the last change.
And the Demons could manage just one goal in the last quarter, Fitzpatrick’s fourth, with Brisbane’s Dayne Zorko opening the term with a three-bounce running goal and Brent Staker later sealing the win with a quality set shot for his third major.
Colin Sylvia and youngster Jack Viney were Melbourne’s top ball-winners.