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Dons boost finals hopes with thrilling win over Eagles

Highlights: Essendon v West Coast The Bombers and Eagles clash in round 21
Jason Winderlich of the Bombers celebrates a goal during the 2014 AFL Round 21 match between the Essendon Bombers and the West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne on August 16, 2014. (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)
Bombers celebrate as they pull off miraculous comeback victory
ESSENDON'S finals hopes received a timely boost and all but ended those of West Coast with a thrilling three-point victory at Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
 
And the 11.11 (77) to 11.8 (74) triumph will carry even greater significance for the club's push to September given it came the hard way.

Five minutes into the third quarter, Jason Winderlich marked at the top of Essendon's goalsquare, played on, was dragged down and kicked a behind. 


To that point, nothing could have summed up Essendon's day better.
 
West Coast swept the ball to the other end of the ground and Jamie Cripps converted his shot. Two minutes later, Cripps kicked another to extend the Eagles' lead to a game-high 34 points.
 
But Winderlich, who was shifted forward after half-time to bring some spark to Essendon's attack, kept going and the move worked. The Bombers kicked five goals in 11 minutes – with two from the soon-to-retire veteran – to get within four points.


It was a match-turning, and perhaps season-defining, burst for the Bombers.
 
Winderlich's third major and David Zaharakis' classy finish in the final term sealed the deal for the Bombers as the Eagles failed to boot a goal in the last quarter.

Coach Mark Thompson said he was exhausted after riding the highs and lows of a twisting game.
 
"I feel like going to sleep. [I'm] tired, exhausted. It felt like I've played two games of footy," he said.
 
"But it was a result that we're looking for. The positives definitely outweighed the negatives. To come back from that position and to play the footy and to get the result was fantastic. 

"But to be in the position in the first place is not so good. And it's another week of contrasting styles."
 
For Eagles coach Adam Simpson it was difficult to see his players run out of steam. 
 
"It was like watching a trainwreck in slow motion in that last quarter," Simpson said.
 
"When you get that much time I suppose you think you can do some moves or influence the trend."

The Bombers started the game in terrific fashion – returning skipper Jobe Watson kicked a goal in the first 13 seconds – but after that very early dominance the Eagles took control.
 
The visitors restricted the Bombers to six inside-50s for the first quarter, and registered 22 themselves.
 
Their three-point lead could and should have been more, given Essendon had nine turnovers in their defensive half in the first 20 minutes of the game. The ascendancy came in the second quarter, when they kicked six goals to two to build their lead.
 
The Eagles looked too tall and too strong, and stretched the Bombers, without key position posts Jake Carlisle (back) and Dustin Fletcher (finger). Josh Kennedy kicked three goals for the term, and in defence Jeremy McGovern and Shannon Hurn cut off Essendon's attempts to push forward.
 
That looked set to continue in the third term after Cripps' cameo, before Dyson Heppell again proved his capacity to lift when his team needs him most.
 
After just 10 touches to half-time, the Essendon midfielder gathered 13 in the third term and willed his side into the contest. He kept going, finishing with 38 disposals as the most influential player on the ground.
 
The Eagles will rue their missed chances. For most of the game, they had the Bombers covered, with Luke Shuey (27 disposals), Matt Priddis (25) and Hurn (23, 10 marks) all playing stirring roles.
 
Had they won, the Eagles would have pushed into the top-eight and ahead of the Bombers on percentage. Instead, Adam Simpson's men are a game behind in the finals race and will need to rely on other results falling their way.
 
Ultimately, the Eagles were overrun by a tide of Bombers. Eleven Essendon players collected more than 20 disposals, and all of those players were influential. 

Andrew Gaff gets a kick away under heavy pressure from Heath Hocking. Picture: AFL Media



ESSENDON     2.1  4.5  9.7  11.11 (77)
WEST COAST   2.4  8.4  11.6  11.8 (74)
 
GOALS
Essendon: Winderlich 3, Daniher 2, Watson, Myers, Stanton, Ambrose, Chapman, Zaharakis
West Coast: Kennedy 3, Cripps 3, Darling 2, Cox, Shuey, Lycett,
 
BEST 
Essendon: Hibberd, Winderlich, Heppell, Watson, Myers, Zaharakis, Daniher
West Coast: Hurn, Priddis, Darling, Mackenzie, Kennedy, Gaff
 
INJURIES 
Essendon: Nil
West Coast: Sam Butler (concussion)
 
SUBSTITUTES
Essendon: Zach Merrett replaced Jake Melksham in the third quarter
West Coast: Simon Tunbridge replaced Sam Butler in the fourth quarter
 
Reports: Nil
 
Umpires: Donlon, Ryan, McInerney
 
Official crowd: TBC at Etihad Stadium