MELBOURNE fought through difficult conditions and its own inaccuracy to beat Fremantle by 33 points and all but extinguish the Dockers' finals hopes at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon.
The 8.13 (61) to 4.4 (28) win moves the Demons closer to the $1 million prize on offer to the winner of the revamped McClelland Trophy, with a blockbuster decider for the prize looming in round 10 when Brisbane hosts the Demons.
DEMONS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
Fremantle went with Melbourne early in typically horrendous wind at Casey Fields and led by a point at quarter-time.
But with the wind at their backs, the Demons, led by gun midfielder Paxy Paxman, peppered Fremantle's defence in the second quarter to get on top.
Paxman (27 disposals, one goal) was typically prolific and well-supported by Eliza West (21 disposals, six clearances), Lily Mithen and Eliza McNamara, while Kate Hore and Eden Zanker kicked two goals apiece.
Hayley Miller, Dana East (11 clearances), Ange Stannett and Kiara Bowers were busy for the Dockers while Megan Kaufmann kicked three goals.
The 26-year-old had only kicked four goals in her career before today, but was on fire in the testing conditions at Casey Fields.
Melbourne took control of the match when Zanker marched into an open goal early in the second term.
Paxman and West snapped two more in quick succession to put the Demons well and truly on top.
Melbourne got out to a 24-point lead but should have led by more, with inaccuracy around goal proving costly.
Fremantle hit back against the run of play late in the second term, with Kauffman coolly finishing into the wind to cut the deficit to 18 at half-time.
Hore and Fremantle's Serena Gibbs traded third-quarter goals to keep the game alive at the final change, before Blaithin Mackin hammered home a long range major with seven minutes on the clock to ice the win, while Hore and Zanker each goaled in the dying minutes to blow the margin out.
Melbourne (32 points) consolidated top spot on the ladder, while 13th-placed Fremantle, in the logjam of teams sitting on 16 points, remain outside the top eight on percentage with one round to go.
Fremantle will realistically need to win their final-round match against Sydney, while relying on other results going their way, to sneak into the top eight.
Dockers defender Jae Flynn was ruled out of this game in the opening term with a back concern and was taken to hospital for precautionary measures.
If Brisbane can beat 12th-placed St Kilda on Saturday afternoon, the Demons and the Lions will face-off next week with the $1m McClelland Trophy prize on offer for the winner. If the Lions lose, Melbourne is all but certain to be crowned the McClelland champions, with Collingwood one game and nearly 18 percentage points behind.
MELBOURNE 1.2 4.9 5.9 8.13 (61)
FREMANTLE 1.3 2.3 3.4 4.4 (28)
Melbourne: Hore 2, Zanker 2, Hanks, Mackin, Paxman, West
Fremantle: Kauffman 3, Gibbs
Melbourne: Paxman, West, McNamara, Fitzsimon, Mithen, Hore
Fremantle: Kauffman, Bowers, Stannett, East, Lally, Miller
Fremantle: Flynn (back)
Crowd: 1,507 at Casey Fields