Kurt Tippett flies for a mark during the Swans' win against the Bulldogs
DEFENDING premiers the Sydney Swans are within half a game of top spot after a testing 35-point win over the Western Bulldogs.
Kurt Tippett again showed it was worth the Swans waiting half the season for him to play, as he kicked six goals in the 21.8 (134) to 15.9 (99) win on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.
The Bulldogs pressed the Swans hard and they at times looked in trouble on a weekend where fellow premiership favourites Hawthorn and Geelong suffered upset losses.
But the Swans kicked the last three goals of the third term and that was enough to kill off the challenge.
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Swans coach John Longmire said after the match his team had expected a real battle against the improving Bulldogs and had got one.
"They were really good, had  tackles, their pressure around the ball was really strong and their outside runners have really gone to a new level," Longmire said.
"It was looking pretty tight there up until about the 25-minute mark, it was probably that red-time there where we kicked those three goals, three important goals, which gave us a bit of breathing space going into three-quarter time," Longmire said.
"It certainly was an important period of the game."
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said he and his players were disappointed not to get closer to the Swans but had taken a number of positives out of the game.
"Statistically we were good (but) probably had two little patches where some young minds and young bodies got a bit lost," McCartney said.
"But we got a fair bit right with our match-ups, got a lot out of our boys.
"The next step for them is when the game gets really hot to do what we did in the third quarter when we were a couple of goals off and just kept at it.
"It seems to be the game will reward you when you do that."
Kieren Jack and Dan Hannebery continued their strong midfield form for the Swans and Jarrad McVeigh was solid across half-back.
Young Bulldogs midfielder Mitch Wallis ran with Josh Kennedy and impressively negated the Swans clearance specialist.
Bulldogs key forward Tom Campbell marked and goaled twice in the opening three minutes to give his side a strong start.
The Swans kicked the next four and looked ready to take control, but the Dogs had come to scrap.
They kicked two of the next three goals to only trail by six points at quarter-time.
The Bulldogs controlled the game for much of the third term, but too many times they kicked inside 50 and were picked off by the Swans' defence.
Tory Dickson kicked a stunning goal on the run to bring the Dogs to within 11 points, but Jude Bolton replied quickly and the Swans led by three goals at the main break.
The game continued to see-saw in the third term and the umpires deserve credit for letting a hard-fought contest unfold with minimal interruption.
As the Bulldogs continued to press, they came up with a strong candidate for goal of the year.
Daniel Cross' snap bounced to Campbell, who tapped the ball down to Daniel Giansiracusa.
The Bulldogs' substitute volleyed the ball out of mid-air for a goal that would have done any soccer striker proud.
More importantly, it brought the Dogs to within eight points at the 24-minute mark.
But typically, the reigning premiers rose to the challenge.
Heath Grundy and Shane Mumford both kicked goals and then Tippett soccered another through just before the three-quarter time siren to break the Bulldogs' hearts.
The Swans led by 26 points at the last break and kicked the first two goals of the last term to ensure the win.
Rhyce Shaw outruns Bulldog Robert Murphy on Sunday. Photo: AFL Media
WESTERN BULLDOGS 4.1 7.3 11.4 15.9 (99)
SYDNEY SWANS 5.1 10.3 15.6 21.8 (134)
Western Bulldogs: Grant 3, Campbell 2, Giansiracusa 2, Dickson 2, Stevens 2, Young, Addison, Dahlhaus, Hunter
Sydney Swans: Tippett 6, Lamb 2, Bird 2, Bolton 2, K. Jack 2, Parker, Mumford, O'Keefe, White, Grundy, Mumford, B. Jack
Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Wallis, Liberatore, Minson, Grant, Cooney
Sydney Swans: K. Jack, Tippett, McVeigh, O'Keefe, Mumford, Rampe, Hannebery
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus (nose)
Sydney Swans: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Daniel Giansiracusa replaced Jack Macrae in the third quarter
Sydney Swans: Brandon Jack replaced Rhyce Shaw in the third quarter
Umpires: Schmitt, Hay, Mitchell
Official crowd: 22,647 at Etihad Stadium