THE LANCE Franklin show has returned to Etihad Stadium, with the superstar forward booting eight goals in Hawthorn's 56-point thrashing of Essendon on Friday night.
In a near-complete performance that stamped the Hawks' authority on the 2013 season, the ladder leaders ran out 22.11 (143) to 13.9 (87) winners in the top-of-the-table clash before 49,505 fans.
Five talking points: Essendon v Hawthorn
After two weeks on the sidelines with swelling behind his right knee, Franklin looked like a caged lion released as he not only kicked, but chased, crashed and bullied the Hawks to victory.
It was the 26-year-old's seventh straight haul of four goals or more against the Bombers, taking his career tally against Hawthorn's bitter rival to 50 goals from 10 games.
"Missing two weeks, I was jumping out of my skin to get back out there amongst the boys, and what better occasion than playing against Essendon and having a victory?"
Sam Mitchell, Cyril Rioli, Luke Hodge and, in his 249th game, Brent Guerra were also superb as the Hawks tightened their grip on top spot.
Trailing by 13 points midway through the first quarter, Alastair Clarkson's men wrestled control of the tempo and booted eight of the next nine goals, taking a 32-point lead into half-time.
Clarkson said arresting Essendon's early momentum was crucial.
"Essendon play this ground really, really well, so to be able to stop the flow of the way they like to play their footy was really important, particularly early," he said after the match
"They got away to a bit of a start and it looked like they were getting the game on their terms, but for us to correct that and get in front by half-time was a really great effort by our players."
Essendon came out fired up after the main break, with Jake Melksham reported for a high bump on Jarryd Roughead and Nick Kommer shoving Isaac Smith into the boundary fence.
The increased pressure briefly resulted in some scoreboard impact before Hawthorn re-gained control.
Somewhat lost given Franklin's display was yet another strong performance from Roughead.
He booted four goals of his own to move to 54 for the season and re-take the lead in the Coleman Medal race from West Coast's Josh Kennedy.
Click here to vote for the three best Hawthorn players from the game
Afforded vastly fewer opportunities (the Hawks led the inside 50 count 66-40), Essendon's forwards were quiet, with only Michael Hurley (three goals) having any real impact.
Dyson Heppell, Brendon Goddard and Melksham all tried hard for the Bombers, who missed the grunt work of injured skipper Jobe Watson.
Click here to vote for the three best Essendon players from the game
Mitchell, having sat out last week with illness, was instrumental early with his ball use from half-back, with Guerra equally as damaging.
Rioli's influence did not show on the stats sheet, but his pressure around the football was irresistible and his run through the centre of the ground damaging.
On a night when almost every Hawk contributed, Jordan Lewis, Paul Puopolo, Ben Stratton and Shane Savage were other standouts.
It was the Hawks' fourth straight win over Essendon, and moved them two wins clear at the head of the ladder.
The Bombers will fall to fourth at the end of the weekend if Geelong and the Sydney Swans both win.
The loss ended yet another tumultuous few days at Windy Hill as the ASADA investigation into the club's supplements program continues.
"Our belief is that they (the players) have not been given anything illegal and that we are not drug cheats," he said.
"As soon as this thing is over the better for everyone, because this is affecting so many people's lives.
"It's got to the point where it's going to affect people's lives permanently, and it's just got to finish."