ESSENDON has put a dagger through Hawthorn’s AFL season with a crucial 19-point win over its arch-rivals at Marvel Stadium.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson had called this a cut-throat game and the 14.12 (96) to 11.11 (77) loss leaves them two wins adrift of the top eight.
Adding to a dirty night for the Hawks, captain Ben Stratton is in the spotlight for repeatedly pinching opponent Orazio Fantasia.
Television coverage showed the Bombers forward with several small bruises on the back of his upper left arm.
“I’ve got a couple of bruises on the arm, Strats loves to pinch … he’s a really good defender,” Fantasia told Channel Seven.
Essendon broke out to a 38-point lead in the last quarter before the Hawks hit back with three goals.
The margin was only three goals with five minutes left, but the Bombers hung on for a win that keeps them in the finals hunt with a 6-6 record.
Bombers star Jake Stringer, who returned from injury on Friday night, was sidelined for much of the second half with a lower-leg injury.
Essendon midfielder Zach Merrett was best afield with 28 possessions and a goal.
Hawthorn started James Sicily in attack and led by a point after a dour opening term.
The Bombers threatened to break clear with the first two goals of the second quarter, but the Hawks kept pace and Essendon missed a couple of very gettable shots.
Hawks small forward Paul Puopolo also had a long-range shot on the halftime siren that should have been no score.
But remarkably, Sicily’s clever block wrong-footed defenders Michael Hurley and Matt Guelfi and the ball went through for a goal.
Hawthorn only trailed by three points at the main break before Essendon again opened the third term with two quick goals.
The Bombers lost Stringer, who was in plenty of pain as he limped from the field, but they kept Hawthorn on the back foot.
Hawthorn could not move the ball forward and Essendon took a 29-point lead late in the third term.
Tempers flared on the three-quarter time siren, with the 173cm Puopolo firing up against 202cm ruckman Tom Bellchambers, who responded by patting him on the head.
But there was no addition to the infamous brawls over the last three decades that have punctuated the fierce rivalry between these clubs.
Trailing by 23 points at the last change, Hawthorn could only manage three behinds at the start of the final quarter.
Predictably, Essendon made them pay with three goals and that proved enough.
Apart from a big mark in the third term, Essendon forward Anthony McDonald- Tipungwuti was kept quiet and his only shot at goal late in the last term was a behind.
Previously this season, Essendon had lost every time McDonald-Tipungwuti had failed to kick a goal.
ESSENDON 2.2 6.7 11.11 14.12 (96)
HAWTHORN 2.3 6.4 8.6 11.11 (77)
Goals: Essendon: J Begley 2 J Stringer 2 K Langford 2 O Fantasia 2 A Saad D Parish M Guelfi S McKernan T Bellchambers Z Merrett. Hawthorn: J Impey 2 B McEvoy C Glass D Moore J Ceglar J Gunston L Breust P Puopolo R Henderson T Scully.
Umpires: Simon Meredith, Ray Chamberlain, Leigh Fisher, Brent Wallace.
Official Crowd: 44,846 at Marvel Stadium.