MELBOURNE has come from behind to assert itself over Greater Western Sydney as the AFL's team on the rise, with young star Jesse Hogan kicking three final-quarter goals to snatch a thrilling two-point win.
Uninspiring for the majority of the first three quarters, the Demons flicked into attacking mode and dominated the final term to kick six of the last eight goals and win 12.8 (80) to 10.18 (78).
Hogan was well beaten by opponent Phil Davis up until the last change, but he benefited from the Demons final-quarter flair to star alongside Jack Watts in the run home.
Last year's NAB AFL Rising Star turned around what would have been a dirty day to win six of his 17 possessions in the last quarter and put any talk of his goalkicking inaccuracy to bed, converting two set shots.
Watts, meanwhile, kicked the opening goal of the fourth quarter after taking a strong mark, and he stood up in a tackle late in the term to dish off a crucial handball that allowed Aaron vandenBerg to dribble home the match-winning goal.
Full match coverage and stats
The Giants had looked destined to start 2016 on a winning note, leading by 21 points at three-quarter time and generally keeping the game on their terms.
They were incredibly wasteful, however, kicking 2.6 in the third quarter when they could have all but settled the result.
While Hogan proved the match-winner in attack, the debut of midfielder Clayton Oliver could have been even more pleasing for the Demons.
Oliver feasted on the contested ball in the first half, winning 17 possessions (11 contested) and five clearances. He finished with 22 possessions (15 contested) after trailing off in the final quarter.
Midfield sidekick Jack Viney (32 possessions) was the Demons' best, while Watts (18 and 10 marks) asserted himself on the contested at important times.
The Demons built a following over the NAB Challenge as one of the teams to watch this season, with their new attacking style leading to three straight wins in the pre-season competition.
But after an exciting first term that netted them 5.0, they regressed into a game marred by skill errors and missed opportunities for the next two quarters.
Coach Paul Roos said he reinforced what his team had worked on over the pre-season at the final change and it "obviously worked a lot better in the last quarter".
"Some of our significant players stepped up … and we got back in the game quickly in the first five minutes, which gives you some belief you can win," Roos said.
"It's a fantastic win. I think when we play the way we want to play we're a pretty hard team to play against but we haven't got a big margin for error yet."
Overcoming the loss of spearheads Jeremy Cameron (suspended) and Cam McCarthy (personal leave), the Giants turned to Rory Lobb in attack and he delivered in the first half, taking six marks and allowing the Giants' smalls to work around him.
Melbourne had the upper hand in the midfield early but lacked efficiency going forward, winning the inside 50s by 13 in the first half and watching the ball bounce straight back out.
Davis dominated in the air with nine first-half intercept possessions and was a brick wall for the Demons, who scored from nine of their 33 entries (GWS scored from 14 of their 20).
Cameron rues 'tough loss'
The trend continued in the third quarter, with the Giants dominant in general play but unable to build a match-winning lead.
Usually revered as 'finishers', Steve Johnson and Devon Smith missed opportunities in the third quarter, as did midfielder Lachie Whitfield.
Melbourne: Oscar McDonald rolled his left ankle and was on crutches post-match, making him unlikely to face Essendon in round two. The Demons were otherwise clear, with Dean Kent and Tom McDonald just cramping late in the game.
Greater Western Sydney: The Giants escaped with a clean bill of health – one piece of good news for the club, which could not afford to lose any more talls.
The Demons face Essendon at the MCG next Saturday where they will be heavily favoured to make a 2-0 start to the season for the first time since 2005. GWS hosts Geelong at Canberra's Manuka Oval, where it has a 3-9 record.
MELBOURNE 5.0 5.4 6.5 12.8 (80)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.4 6.8 8.14 10.18 (78)
Melbourne: Hogan 3, Garlett 2, vandenBerg 2, Vince, Kennedy, Harmes, Kent, Watts
Greater Western Sydney: Ward 2, Lobb 2, Johnson 2, Scully, Smith, Steele, Greene
Melbourne: Viney, Kennedy, Tom McDonald, Oliver, Jones, Watts, Hogan
Greater Western Sydney: Ward, Scully, Shaw, Davis, Shiel, Lobb
Melbourne: Oscar McDonald (ankle)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Umpires: Donlon, Chamberlain, Wallace
Official crowd: 28,505 at the MCG