Kysaiah Pickett celebrates a goal during Melbourne's clash against Adelaide in round 19, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

MELBOURNE has survived an almighty scare after Adelaide's fourth-quarter rally to hang on for a four-point victory at the MCG on Sunday, reinforcing its grip on a top-four spot and significantly denting the visitors' flickering finals hopes.

After trailing by 24 points at three-quarter time, Adelaide sensationally squared the game up with 15 minutes left after a burst of four quick goals, but the Demons immediately responded with sub Joel Smith, Taj Woewodin and Kade Chandler booting goals to reclaim a 20-point buffer.

DEMONS v CROWS Full match coverage and stats

However, the Crows came again with goals from Taylor Walker and Brodie Smith. Walker then kicked his third goal of the fourth quarter to cut the margin to four points with 86 seconds left, but the Dees clung on to win 14.13 (97) to 13.15 (93) in their second straight thriller at the MCG, having launched a remarkable late comeback to topple Brisbane last week.

It was heartbreak for the Crows, who lost their last game at the MCG by two points to Collingwood in round 15, with the defeat leaving them 13th on the ladder with an 8-10 record, having lost four of their past five.


Melbourne improved to 12-6 in fourth, pulling two wins clear of the fifth-placed Western Bulldogs with five rounds to play.

The electric Kysaiah Pickett was arguably Melbourne's best afield with 20 disposals, two goals and two goal assists, along with four tackles. Jack Viney (27 disposals and a goal), Christian Petracca (26) and Angus Brayshaw (25 with a game-high 16 contested possessions) were brilliant around the contest, while Chandler kicked three goals.

Walker was exceptional late for the Crows, to finish with four goals, while Izak Rankine – who suffered a late left hamstring injury – almost single-handedly kept his side in the contest earlier with three goals and 20 disposals.

Melbourne had led by as many as 32 points in the third quarter after Pickett's second goal and always appeared the more likely victor, yet the gallant Crows kept persisting, booting seven goals to three in the final quarter but never hitting the front.


Adelaide's inaccuracy in the first three quarters, particularly from set shots, didn't help its cause in an even match where it edged inside 50s 54-52, but was beaten for contested possessions (150-128) and clearances (39-32) with Max Gawn's ruck ascendancy over Reilly O'Brien a factor.

Gawn booted the opening goal of the game with a long bomb as the Demons started the stronger without putting it on the scoreboard. Rankine produced a moment of magic for Adelaide's first, fending off two defenders on the boundary, before combining with Rory Sloane and snapping sharply from a tough angle.


After holding a four-point lead at quarter-time, Melbourne kicked four goals in a scintillating 12-minute span with two each from Chandler and last week's matchwinner Jake Melksham to blow the game open.

Adelaide arrested back control and was rewarded with goals from Walker and Rankine, the latter an opportunistic poke off the ground, but spurned numerous opportunities, meaning it trailed by 13 points at half-time despite having more scoring shots (12-10) and inside 50s (27-23).


Melbourne made the visitors pay in the third term, led by Pickett who directly assisted Viney's goal, before booting the next two himself, the latter opening up a 32-point lead.

Rankine responded for Adelaide with a perfect front-and-centre roving goal as the Crows put together three of the next four goals to stay in touch, only for Gawn to kick a settling goal prior to three-quarter time.

Shane McAdam initiated Adelaide's early fourth-term burst with a major followed by two from the quiet Ben Keays before Walker tied the game after winning a two-on-one against Steven May and Jake Lever.

But sub Smith made a major impact after replacing Ben Brown in the fourth quarter with his steadying goal, before setting up Woewodin with a lofted pass to the top of the square. The Crows kept coming led by Walker, but the Dees scraped home.


Gawn dominant without Grundy again
The future of off-season recruit Brodie Grundy was widely discussed during the week after Max Gawn dominated in his absence against Brisbane last round with a season-high 29 disposals, with the former omitted to work on his forward-half game. In his second game without splitting ruck duties with Grundy, Gawn's impact was significant again, beating Reilly O'Brien (38-20 hitouts) and finishing with 13 disposals including three clearances, eight marks and two goals. Meanwhile in the VFL on Saturday, Grundy had 12 touches, four marks and booted 1.3 for the Casey Demons.

Livewire duo put on a Sunday masterclass
Pickett and Rankine were a cut above most on the field with classy attacking displays for their respective sides. Pickett, who started in the middle, lit up the third quarter with two goals and he had a game-high 11 score involvements, with his tackling and pressure playing a big part. Rankine responded to being kept goalless for only the second time this season last week against Greater Western Sydney with a superb performance despite Judd McVee's close attention, which the Crows needed without suspended livewire Josh Rachele and injured ball-magnet Rory Laird. Sadly, Rankine's game ended needing assistance from the trainers to help him off the field after injuring his left hamstring in a late bouncing run forward.


Crows close but no cigar on the road
Adelaide's away struggles continued on Sunday, suffering its sixth straight loss on the road. The Crows have a 1-7 record away from Adelaide Oval this season, compared to 7-3 at their home ground. Those away struggles have attracted criticism yet Adelaide has come close to a much-needed road victory lately, losing by three goals to Essendon a fortnight ago and two points to leader Collingwood a month ago at the MCG. Adelaide's last win at the MCG was way back in round 15, 2017 against Carlton, which was the year it lost the Grand Final to Richmond at that venue.


MELBOURNE          2.2     6.4     11.7     14.13 (97)
ADELAIDE              1.4     3.9     6.13     13.15 (93)

Melbourne: Chandler 3, Pickett 2, Melksham 2, Gawn 2, Woewodin, Viney, Van Rooyen, Smith, Neal-Bullen
Walker 4, Rankine 3, Keays 2, Smith, Murphy, McAdam, Fogarty

Melbourne: Pickett, Viney, Brayshaw, Gawn, Chandler, Petracca
Rankine, Walker, Hinge, Dawson, Milera, Crouch 

Melbourne: Nil
Murray (knee), Rankine (hamstring)

Melbourne: Nil
Ned McHenry and Patrick Parnell (illness) replaced in selected side by Luke Nankervis and Lachlan Murphy

Melbourne: Joel Smith (replaced Ben Brown in fourth quarter)
Jackson Hately (replaced Jordon Butts in third quarter)

Crowd: 33,122 at the MCG