The AFL premiers are back.
Or they just might be, on the basis of Western Bulldogs’ 30-point run-and-gun win over Essendon on Sunday.
Luke Beveridge’s side stood up in the match they simply had to win to keep their flag defence alive.
Jason Johannisen roared with four goals and Marcus Bontempelli showed his class in the 19.13 (127) to 13.19 (97) success.
The Bulldogs broke open the contest in the third term, kicking seven goals to outgun the Bombers in an old-fashioned shootout.
In the high-scoring contest, Joe Daniher was the dominant forward, kicking six goals to take the lead in the race for the Coleman Medal.
But the Bulldogs had more routes to goal, beginning with Johannisen.
In front of a crowd of 48,754 — the biggest to attend the fixture this century — the Dogs grand final hero began as a forward and sparked his side.
Lukas Webb, Tory Dickson and Johannisen kicked two early goals each as the Bulldogs reeled in an early deficit and began their assault.
The Dogs were playing with the run and dare absent for much of their premiership defence.
Daniher was playing a lone hand in the Bombers attack but, as solo shows go, it was enough to keep Essendon in touch.
His four first-half goals kept the Bombers within a kick at halftime.
Two minutes after the break, he had a fifth as the Bulldogs failed to find a match-up to curb his influence.
Then, in the premiership quarter, the premiers re-emerged.
Seven different Bulldogs — including leaders Bob Murphy, Johannisen, Bontempelli and Jordan Roughead — kicked goals in the third term.
It was just as well they did as they didn’t kick another until Bontempelli finally closed out the contest late in the final quarter.
The floodgates were opened, with four late majors blowing out the margin.
After seeing the club record its first run of three straight wins since last year’s finals series, Beveridge said he was satisfied.
“There’s no doubt it was a manic game, a turnover-oriented game,” he said.
“I was really pleased and happy with the performance … we just managed to do enough.”
Essendon will rue an inaccurate day out, including six behinds and two out-of-bounds in the last term with the match on the line.
John Worsfold’s side drop out of the eight at the Bulldogs’ expense, but retain a pathway to September with an easier-than-average run home.
Worsfold said he was frustrated with skill errors in the “frenetic” game.
“Both teams were prepared to go really fast which means there was higher risk of turnovers,” he said.
“The contested ball and stoppage stuff, they won that area of the game.
“Our kicking was below what we would expect of each other.”