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Match report: Inspired Port leave Dogs on brink

Highlights: W.Bulldogs v Port Adelaide The Bulldogs and Power clash in round 22
Travis Boak enjoys that winning feeling for the first time in Ballarat - ${keywords}
Travis Boak enjoys that winning feeling for the first time in Ballarat

PORT Adelaide has virtually ended the Western Bulldogs' premiership defence with a hard-fought 17-point win in the first game played for premiership points in Ballarat. 

Big forward Charlie Dixon proved the difference with four goals and two huge final-quarter marks when Port needed a lift after it fell 12 points behind early in the final term.

Full match coverage and stats

Dixon took six contested marks for the game as the Power dominated in the air. 

Scores were level with about 10 minutes remaining but Port Adelaide put the foot down kicking 14.12 (96) to the Western Bulldogs 11.13 (79). 

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said the big finish pointed to the improved mindset among the group this season.

"We have worked really hard this year on our system (and) style of play and it came off pretty well when the scores were 78 all today," Hinkley said.

"I thought (Brad) Ebert kicked up the middle and (showed) a bit of courage to take the game on and (it) ended up in a goal to (Chad) Wingard in the goalsquare."

The win temporarily puts Port inside the top four, guarantees it will play finals this year, and most likely means it will play its first game in September at Adelaide Oval.

It also makes it unlikely for the Bulldogs to make finals – Luke Beveridge's men are reliant on other results to avoid becoming the first team since Hawthorn in 2009 to miss September action after winning the flag.

Five talking points: Dog day afternoon looks set to end flag defence

The disappointed Beveridge said the Bulldogs had to work too hard for their goals and were therefore unable to create something special when the whips were cracking at the finish.

"It was a tight struggle there for a while and they just got the better of us in the end," Beveridge said.

"Unfortunately they had players stand up when the game was on the line in the last quarter and we just couldn't quite match it."

Port Adelaide skipper Travis Boak and ruckman Paddy Ryder combined well to give the Port Adelaide midfield its ascendancy, while Jake Neade's pressure up forward was outstanding.

Port's only worry is an incident involving defender Tom Jonas and Bulldog Luke Dahlhaus in the third quarter. 

Jonas put in an off-the-ball block and appeared to collect the midfielder in the jaw with his shoulder. The Match Review Panel are likely to take a close look at the incident.

The Bulldogs battled hard but could not find a marking target inside the forward 50, taking just four marks inside 50, with mid-sized forward Bailey Dale taking three of them.

Dale was outstanding, kicking four goals to give the undersized Dogs an avenue in attack just days after signing a new contract, but they missed Jack Redpath's presence.

The Dogs had been dealt a further blow when they lost Jake Stringer at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter to a hamstring injury.

It meant that although the Bulldogs had kicked three goals to hold a seven-point lead at the first break, they trailed uncontested marks 26 to 3, tackles 21 to 20 and contested possessions 40 to 37.

They also struggled to handle Ryder's ruckwork.

The Port Adelaide big man had kicked two goals into a slight breeze in that first term and looked to have the ascendancy.

Over 10,000 turned out for the first Ballarat game for premiership points. Picture: AFL Photos

Port hit the front early in the second term when Ollie Wines goaled and had the momentum. 

The Bulldogs lifted around the stoppages, sharing the ball and also spread the ground to take uncontested marks. 

Jack Macrae was outstanding for the Bulldogs in the first half, winning seven clearances and 10 contested possessions.

His work inside gave the Bulldogs enough inside 50s to stay in the contest and they made the most of their chances kicking three goals from nine inside 50s. 

But Port Adelaide had greater numbers winning the inside 50 count 60-52 and it showed on the scoreboard.

It was Port's third win in its past 12 games against the Bulldogs and means next Friday night's clash with Hawthorn could well be captain Bob Murphy's final game.

MEDICAL ROOM
Western Bulldogs
Jake Stringer hurt his left hamstring at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter, leaving the ground at a stoppage. He spent the rest of the game on the bench.

Port Adelaide
Dan Houston injured his shoulder before quarter time when Toby McLean tackled him inside the forward pocket but was able to play out the game. Paddy Ryder collected Sam Gray in a marking contest and Gray suffered a corked quad. 

NEXT UP
The Bulldogs face Hawthorn on an emotional Friday night with the Hawks sending off Luke Hodge and Josh Gibson. Port Adelaide should defeat Gold Coast at Adelaide Oval to secure a home final but could sneak into the top four.

WESTERN BULLDOGS     3.3    6.5    9.11     11.13 (79)
PORT ADELAIDE             2.2    5.5    8.10     14.12 (96)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Dale 4, Cloke 2, Hunter 2, Dunkley, Liberatore, Suckling
Port Adelaide: Dixon 4, R.Gray 2, Wingard 2, Ryder 2, Wines, Boak, S Gray, Polec

BEST 
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, McLean, Dale, Dahlhaus, Suckling, Daniel
Port Adelaide: Ryder, Boak, Dixon, Polec, Wines, Powell-Pepper 

INJURIES 
Western Bulldogs: Stringer (left hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Dan Houston (shoulder)

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Chamberlain, Meredith, Mitchell 

Official crowd: 10,087 at Mars Stadium