HAWTHORN has asserted its authority over challenger Collingwood, overpowering the Magpies to win by 35 points at the MCG on Friday night.
In a high-pressure clash that started like a final, the Hawks rediscovered their best football in the opening three quarters, winning 18.11 (119) to 12.12 (84).
The Magpies rallied in the fourth quarter to kick three of the last five goals, but it was too little too late as the Hawks cruised to the finish line.
The impressive win, Hawthorn's fifth in succession against Collingwood, all but ended the Magpies' top-four hopes after a strong fortnight had reignited their premiership chances.
Key Hawks Lance Franklin, Luke Hodge and Grant Birchall all returned and were impressive, giving coach Alastair Clarkson a settled line-up with two matches to come before finals.
Franklin, whose set shot kicking was faultless, booted 4.0, giving him a total of 54 goals from his last 13 games against the Magpies.
Meanwhile, Hodge (28 possessions and eight marks) marshalled the team from half-back with Birchall (26) polished after seven weeks on the sidelines.
"Both sides were really hard at it, and we were pleased that we were able to stand up under the pressure.
"We need to play at that type of standard in finals footy, and we didn't do that in the last two games of last year, so that's a significant challenge for us.
"We know our most important footy is going to be in the last five or six weeks of the season."
The Magpies were scrappy going into attack on a windy night, giving key targets Ben Reid and Quinten Lynch, who combined for one goal, few opportunities.
Travis Cloke was the Magpies' leading goalkicker with three.
The Hawks sprung a selection surprise pre-match, replacing Brent Guerra (knee) with ruckman Max Bailey, despite the forecast of rain.
And with Bailey carrying the ruck, David Hale was able to push forward alongside Franklin and Jarryd Roughead, stretching the Magpies' back six.
At one point in the second quarter, half-back Heath Shaw, who had no offensive impact with nine possessions, was sent to Franklin.
The Hawks got on a roll early in the second quarter, kicking four unanswered goals to open up a 34-point lead, with Cyril Rioli electric as the architect.
Midfielder Brad Sewell was also influential in the first half, finishing with 27 possessions to cement his place in the team ahead of finals.
Jarryd Blair's goal off the ground appeared to be touched by opponent Taylor Duryea, but the vision was not deemed conclusive enough to overturn the goal umpire's decision.
Essendon star Brendon Goddard labelled the decision a "debacle" on Twitter.
From that point the Magpies lifted and cut the margin to 15 points at the main break, but their challenge was quickly snuffed out.
"The third quarter wasn't played in the manner we were looking to play the game.
"We just allowed their defenders to drop off and have extra numbers in behind us.
"For the most part we weren't far off."
Midfielders Scott Pendlebury (31 possessions) and Dane Swan (35) won plenty of the ball, while run-with specialist Brent Macaffer kept opponent Sam Mitchell reasonably quiet.
Young ruckman Brodie Grundy (20 possessions and 28 hit-outs) was impressive as he seeks to hold his spot with Darren Jolly pushing to return.