ST KILDA has celebrated its 150th anniversary in style and maintained an unbeaten start to the season with a tough 18-point win over Essendon.
Jack Higgins and Dan Butler kicked four goals each for the Saints, whose blistering opening and stifling defence were features of the 14.8 (92) to 11.8 (74) victory at the MCG.
But there were some nervous moments in the final term when the Bombers drew level - having trailed by 34 points early in the match - before St Kilda steadied with a five-goal burst to put the result to bed.
SAINTS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
It improved the Saints' record to 3-0 under returned coach Ross Lyon this season, while Brad Scott was dealt his first loss in charge of Essendon.
Tony Lockett, Ian Stewart, Ross Smith, Barry Breen and Nicky Winmar were among the St Kilda greats on hand to help celebrate the club's milestone, part of a 69,255-strong crowd.
The faithful who turned up got their money's worth as witnesses to a rollercoaster ride of a contest.
St Kilda's opening two goals were gifts from 50m penalties against Mason Redman and they had the first five majors on the board before time-on in the first term.
Late to the party, Essendon trailed by 27 points at quarter-time.
Momentum swung around the contest when the Bombers lifted their intensity, with Will Setterfield setting an example.
MORE SAINTS INJURIES St Kilda's war of attrition continues despite 3-0 start
Essendon moved Kyle Langford forward at the final change and kicked the first three goals of the final term.
A pair of Jye Caldwell snaps came either side of Langford's toe-poke on the line.
But Higgins and Jade Gresham provided quick replies for the Saints, who booted five successive goals as they kicked into party mode.
Brad Crouch (31 disposals), Jack Sinclair (26), Mason Wood (27), Seb Ross (24) and Gresham (23) were all strong contributors.
Nic Martin (27 disposals) was among the Bombers' best and Darcy Parish racked up 34 touches, with Caldwell and Archie Perkins kicking two goals each.
Jordan Ridley and Jake Kelly were solid in defence but explosive forward Jake Stringer had little impact on return from injury, kicking one goal from eight disposals.
As part of their 150th celebrations, St Kilda inducted former star players Leigh Montanga and Nick Dal Santo into the club's Hall of Fame.
Champion full-forward Bill Mohr was posthumously elevated to Saints 'Legend' status.
Can these Saints get to football heaven?
Saturday night's clash was the pinnacle of a week celebrating St Kilda's 150th anniversary. Club greats including Nicky Winmar, Tony Lockett and Neil Roberts lined up on the ground before the first bounce, and recent alumni Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo were honoured as new inductees to the Saints' Hall of Fame. So often a big night can carry too much pressure for the team that takes the field and things can go horribly wrong on the night, but Ross Lyon's side was well and truly up for the occasion. The win gives St Kilda its first 3-0 start to a season since 2010, a year where they came so close to winning a premiership. Could this side be the one to go that one step further and deliver a second flag to Moorabbin?
Shiel shakes and shimmies
The first quarter wasn’t a great half hour for Essendon as the celebrating Saints banged on the first five goals of the game, but when the contest restarted it was a chance to reset and Dylan Shiel did his best to get the Bombers in a winning mindset. The contested ball was on Essendon’s half forward-flank when Jake Stringer found it in heavy traffic. Stringer ducked and weaved but couldn’t do his sometimes game-changing best, so he handballed the Sherrin - and responsibility - to Shiel who sold the dummy to Dan Butler, did it again to Bradley Hill and then banged the ball through from just inside 50.
Ross Lyon's unexpected one Wood
When Mason Wood left North Melbourne it barely caused a ripple among Kangaroos fans who claimed to be tired of watching a highly-talented player deliver mediocre performances, and there were probably plenty of Saints supporters who would have agreed at the time. But not anymore. Since crossing from Arden Street, Wood has been building on his performances and has seemingly reached his potential. His game on Saturday night was huge: a career-high 27 disposals, 11 marks, one goal, seven score involvements and an ability to keep contributing when it was most needed. Across the first three rounds Wood has averaged 23.7 disposals, his next best season average was 16.6 last year. If he can keep delivering at this level he will be the star recruit no-one, including Ross Lyon, was expecting to land at Moorabbin.
ST KILDA 5.4 7.5 9.7 14.8 (92)
ESSENDON 1.1 4.5 6.6 11.8 (74)
St Kilda: Higgins 4, Butler 4, Wood, Owens, Caminiti, Gresham, Windhager, Hill
Essendon: Perkins 2, Caldwell 2, Shiel 2, Langford, Stringer, Menzie, Martin, Parish
St Kilda: Wood, Wilkie, Marshall, Ross, Crouch, Higgins
Essendon: Kelly, Ridley, Parish, Merrett, Shiel, Martin
St Kilda: Webster (head), Wood (shoulder)
Essendon: Davey (head)
St Kilda: Ben Paton (replaced Zaine Cordy in the third quarter)
Essendon: Nick Hind (replaced Harrison Jones in the third quarter)
Crowd: 69,255 at the MCG