ESSENDON has survived a massive scare to strengthen their grip on a top-eight spot with a tense six-point win over injury-hit North Melbourne.

A game of swinging momentum eventually fell the Bombers' way when substitute Massimo D'Ambrosio snapped the match-winning goal with two minutes left in a 16.9 (105) to 15.9 (99) victory at Marvel Stadium.

The second-from-bottom Kangaroos trailed by 20 points at quarter-time and lost important midfielders Jy Simpkin and Hugh Greenwood to concussion before the main break.

BOMBERS v KANGAROOS Full match coverage and stats

But they fought back with six consecutive goals and led by 17 points during the third term.


The Bombers kicked six of the next seven majors to turn for home with a lead and got their noses back in front in a nerve-wracking final quarter, boosting their finals hopes in the process.

The lead changed hands four times in the last term and scores were level in the final few minutes before D’Ambrosio stepped up with the game on the line.


Kyle Langford booted four goals for Essendon and Zach Merrett finished with a game-high 34 disposals, while Jye Caldwell (27 touches), Jordan Ridley (21) and Nic Martin (21, two goals) were important.

Cameron Zurhaar kicked four goals for North and Ben McKay had some massive moments in defence.


An undermanned midfield led by Will Phillips (28 disposals), Bailey Scott (19) and Harry Sheezel (21) threatened to lift the Kangaroos to a huge upset.

There were early alarm bells for North as their opponents' ability to waltz out of stoppages led to the Bombers kicking four of the first five goals.

Merrett produced a massive opening term, racking up 16 disposals, five clearances and two goals by the first break as Essendon opened up a 20-point lead.


But Liam Shiels put the clamps on the Bombers' ball-winner in the second term, limiting him to five touches.

North kicked three unanswered goals in the second term and rattled off the first three majors of the third, with Tarryn Thomas' snap putting them 17 points up.


Three goals in five minutes put the Bombers back in front in a game of rapidly swinging momentum.

Essendon fans got some light relief in an intense third term when Andrew Phillips' shanked kick led to a Nic Martin mark - after the ball bounced off his head - and goal to give them an 11-point break at the final change.

There were four lead changes in the final term and North's Jaidyn Stephenson levelled the scores with a brilliant snap with three minutes left, only to be outdone by D'Ambrosio.


Merrett is building a massive season
Zach Merrett was huge against North Melbourne, continuing a season that would have had him in Brownlow contention if he weren't suspended for a rough tackle on Tom Sparrow in round five. He was huge in the first quarter and continued on to finish with 34 disposals, 11 marks, eight clearances and two goals. The Bombers skipper has been right in the mix for best on ground in all his side's wins this year and shows no sign of stopping, and as much as that pleases Bombers fans, it could lead to yet another frustrating Brownlow outcome.

Zach Merrett celebrates a goal in the round 12 Essendon and North Melbourne clash at Marvel Stadium on June 4, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Confidence is a crazy thing
North's season to date has been at a level where opposition fans are pencilling in a win when their side faces the Roos, but this team has an upside that occasionally shows itself - and it can be beautiful to watch. When the young Kangas back themselves they're as exciting as any outfit, moving the ball with confidence, taking risks and pulling them off, but when things don't go their way they can go back in their shells - but they didn't find time for that on Sunday! The exuberance of youth can be a frustrating thing for all involved, but North Melbourne fans should stand back like loving parents to savour the magic moments of their club's growing pains.


'I meant that'
Ruckmen have been the butt of football jokes as long as the game has been played, but every now and then they do something special. Many may question the intention behind Andrew Phillips' centering pass in the third quarter, but no doubt he will be saying that was exactly what he meant to do, even disguising the perfect play to look like a rank shank. Phillips seemed to be snapping for a vital goal but the ball went at an almost impossible angle, only to find Nic Martin - via his head. Martin was obviously in on the set play and dutifully slotted the set shot to extend Essendon's lead to 11 points.


ESSENDON                   6.2    6.6    12.7    16.9 (105)
NORTH MELBOURNE    3.0    6.4    10.8    15.9 (99)

Essendon: Langford 4, Perkins 2, Merrett 2, Martin 2, Guelfi 2, Stringer, Menzie, Draper, D'Ambrosio
North Melbourne: Zurhaar 4, Larkey 2, Coleman-Jones 2, Tucker, Thomas, Scott, Phillips, McDonald, Goldstein, Stephenson

Essendon: Merrett, Ridley, Martin, Caldwell, Heppell, Perkins
North Melbourne: McDonald, McKay, Zurhaar, Coleman-Jones, Phillips, Tucker

Essendon: Shiel (calf)
North Melbourne: Jy Simpkin (concussion), Greenwood (concussion)

Essendon: Massimo D'Ambrosio (replaced Dylan Shiel at three-quarter time)
North Melbourne: Tom Powell (replaced Jy Simpkin at quarter-time)

Crowd: 40,488 at Marvel Stadium