GOLD Coast secured its first finals berth in three years while Essendon faces a nervous wait after the Suns recorded a 14-point victory in Mackay on Friday night.
A home final awaits the Suns, who cannot finish lower than fifth on the table, while the Bombers will spend the weekend ruing missed opportunities after the costly 6.3 (39) to 2.7 (25) loss put their finals in jeopardy.
SUNS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
Essendon now has to wait for other results to determine their destiny, with Geelong, Sydney, St Kilda and Collingwood all vying with the Bombers for the last spots in the top eight.
Essendon managed to lock it in their inside 50 early at Great Barrier Reef Arena and cut off any quick transition opportunities as the Suns worked to move the ball through the middle.
Gold Coast felt the impact of Charlie Rowbottom's absence around stoppages, struggling to cover off the abundance of loose players the Bombers had around the ball.
While Essendon dominated the inside 50 early, they were unable to capitalise and led by just a point at the first break.
Gold Coast had more luck moving the ball up the flank, with key forward Tara Bohanna playing further up the field to give her teammates more options moving into attack.
The Suns took charge in the second quarter booting four goals for the term, but a loose Bomber in Amelia Radford kept Essendon in touching distance despite the Suns' dominance.
Gold Coast's engine room in Lucy Single, Alison Drennan and Claudia Whitfort increased their work rate throughout the game, combining for 28 disposals inside the first half.
Messy fumbles and a lack of willingness to put foot to ball wasn't enough to stop the Suns from retaining their lead at the final break, but decision making and discipline will be on coach Cameron Joyce's finals radar as they look to improve heading into next week.
While Essendon continued its season-long trend of strong disposal efficiency and looked better moving into its forward line, it couldn't find a way to make it work on the scoreboard, with their inefficiency going forward proving costly.
Lauren Ahrens worked hard to negate the attacking threat of Bonnie Toogood, who despite finishing scoreless displayed her aerial prowess with a match-high five marks.
Finding a way to score will be the most important takeaway for Bombers coach Natalie Wood as they look to an inaugural finals campaign. It would take a massive win by either St Kilda or Collingwood to knock the Bombers out of finals, an incredible finish in just their second season.
One to watch
After taking a strong overhead mark, Darcie Davies belted her second goal home from just inside the 50 to give the Suns the biggest lead of the game. She stood up in a moment of maturity and dominance that showed she'll be a strong a key forward for the Suns in seasons to come.
Will Rowbottom be ready?
While they can take plenty of confidence out of the win, the Suns will be sweating on the return of Charlie Rowbottom. The extent of her ankle injury is still not known and the Suns are likely to keep it that way until the last minute.
GOLD COAST 1.0 5.1 6.1 6.3 (39)
ESSENDON 1.1 3.3 3.7 3.7 (25)
Gold Coast: Davies 2, Clayden, D'Arcy, Dupuy, Stanton
Essendon: Clarke, Gee, Radford
Gold Coast: Drennan, D'Arcy, Single, Ahrens, Whitfort
Essendon: Prespakis, Nanscawen, Toogood, Alexander
Gold Coast: Nil
Crowd: 1,700 at Great Barrier Reef Arena