Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae starred as the Western Bulldogs beat Melbourne by 20 points at the MCG to take top spot on the AFL ladder.
The Western Bulldogs leapfrogged Melbourne into top spot on the AFL ladder but lost key defender Alex Keath to a hamstring injury in the process of their gritty 20-point win.
Keath was substituted out of the game before quarter-time as Bontempelli, Macrae and a hard-working midfield steered the Bulldogs to a 13.7 (85) to 9.11 (65) victory at the MCG on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs now sit two points clear of Melbourne on top of the ladder and boast the competition’s best percentage.
Meanwhile, the Demons could slip as low as third by the end of the round – if Geelong beat Richmond on Sunday – having won just two and drawn one of their last six games.
Bontempelli had 31 disposals and combined with Macrae (38 disposals) to generate 19 clearances, while Caleb Daniel (34 disposals) and Tom Liberatore (27) were also important contributors.
Josh Bruce, Aaron Naughton, Mitch Hannan and Bontempelli kicked two goals each for the Dogs and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who had been quiet all night, booted a crucial major from a set shot in the final term.
With Keath out of action, versatile tall Josh Schache stepped up to play an important role in defence, having been recalled for his second game of the season.
Clayton Oliver had 38 disposals, 25 contested possessions, eight clearances and eight inside-50s for the Demons, with midfield partner Christian Petracca (31 disposals) also in the thick of the action.
Melbourne forwards Ben Brown, Bayley Fritsch and Kysaiah Pickett kicked two goals each.
Max Gawn (57 hitouts) got first hands on the ball in his ruck battle with Tim English (14) but the Bulldogs got on top at ground level, winning clearances 49-41.
Bontempelli and Petracca traded blows from the outset, snapping brilliant goals for their respective sides in the opening term as the Dogs edged ahead in wet and wild conditions.
Hannan kicked a team-lifting goal against his former club just before halftime, sparking a melee between the two sides, and Bailey Smith put the Bulldogs 21 points up moments later.
Conditions got better after the main break and the intensity lifted, with Cody Weightman launching himself onto Gawn’s shoulders to haul in a mark-of-the-year contender.
The Bulldogs played a man down in the final term after Ed Richards suffered concussion from a collision with Pickett and Brown cut the margin to four points with his second major.
But Bontempelli replied as the Dogs steadied, kicking the final three goals of the match.
A lop-sided free kick count went the Bulldogs’ way (25-11).