THE AFL'S Jekyll and Hyde side remains in the finals race.
Melbourne couldn't afford to drop Saturday night's clash with fellow contender Greater Western Sydney and escaped with a five-point victory in the club's most important game since 2018.
GIANTS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
The Giants rallied from an 18-point first quarter deficit to snatch a seven-point edge at the final break – based mostly on their dominance in contested ball – but failed to hang on.
Simon Goodwin's Demons provisionally returned to the top eight with the heart-stopping 12.7 (79) to 11.8 (74) triumph at the Gabba.
They kicked the first three goals of the last term, with Trent Rivers' second – after not kicking any in his first seven matches – appearing to seal the match with 152 seconds on the clock.
However, GWS goalsneak Brent Daniels slammed through his third major with 33 seconds left to ensure a frenetic finish, but Melbourne managed to defend stoutly.
The Demons are one of the competition's enigmas. They've toppled Collingwood, St Kilda and the Giants in their past six contests, yet dropped their past two to Sydney and Fremantle.
LADDER PREDICTOR Can your team make the eight?
Adelaide's stunning upset of GWS on Tuesday evening revived Melbourne's hopes, but it will still need to defeat Essendon next week to stay in contention.
The Giants face the Saints in the last round and must win that one, as well as relying on other results going their way to return to the finals for the fifth season in a row.
GWS arguably had the two best players afield, with 21 of Tom Green's match-high 30 disposals being contested and Josh Kelly amassing 24 touches, 10 inside 50s and 707m gained.
The Demons weren't short of contributors, either, with Steven May outstanding on Jeremy Cameron and Christian Petracca winning 19 contested possessions and six clearances.
Ruckman Max Gawn and star onballer Clayton Oliver combined for 15 clearances to also be prominent, while Ed Langdon had 10 turnovers but his gut running was important.
This season's been chockful of dour contests with low goal tallies – exacerbated by the shorter quarters – but Melbourne and the Giants put on a shootout stacked with highlights.
None was better than Daniels' long-range dribble goal from deep in the pocket in the second term, but he also slotted another oh-so-difficult one a quarter later while being tackled.
Melbourne benefited from individual brilliance, too, from Oskar Baker – separate snaps off both feet for goals – and another where Petracca scooped the ball up with one hand then drilled a major.
Taking a turn for the better
Young Giant Brent Daniels produced some serious wizardry early in the second term. He swooped on the Sherrin after it tumbled from an aerial contest, used his left foot to pop the ball up to himself, then his next goal was just to evade Steven May. Daniels ended up hard on the boundary in the pocket, about 30m out from his goals, and realised he had no appropriate centring options. The third-year small forward elected to dribble a shot at goal and the ball seemed destined to crash into the post before taking a wicked turn to the right to sneak in for maximum points. There were some great goals on the night, but none were better than Daniels' effort – and it may even be Goal of the Year. His third term goal while being slung in a tackle was pretty impressive, too.
The wild man throws his weight around
Shane Mumford gave away 30 more free kicks than any other footballer last year, averaging almost four against per game. He ranked seventh in that dubious statistic entering Saturday night's clash with Melbourne, but that's because he'd played only half as many games as most of those ahead of him. The 34-year-old returned to the Giants' line-up against the Demons and made sure, if nothing else, his physicality came to the fore. The problem? It often cost GWS. His first free kick resulted in a Bayley Fritsch kick inside 50 that created Christian Petracca's goal, then his second was an undisciplined clip to Clayton Oliver's head charging from the opposite direction. Oliver was down on his haunches for an extended period afterwards, and only a Max Gawn turnover prevented that one hurting the Giants. Mumford's third indiscretion cost a direct goal, as his sloppy shepherding attempt collected Trent Rivers high in the Demon's attacking 50.
Melbourne's 2020 rollercoaster ain't over
A crazy season just got crazier. A Demons loss would have simplified a hectic run home that could yet change in so many ways, with plenty to play out in the race for a top-eight spot. They will have to beat Essendon in round 18 – ideally by a comfortable margin for extra percentage – and probably still need Greater Western Sydney to topple St Kilda. In that case, it might come down to which of Melbourne and the Saints has a better percentage for eight spot. However, Collingwood and the Western Bulldogs must take care of business to ensure their own places. AFL.com.au's Ladder Predictor is set to get a serious work out in the next week or so, but the unpredictable nature of this season means nothing can be taken for granted.
GWS GIANTS 2.3 7.5 10.7 11.8 (74)
MELBOURNE 5.2 7.5 9.6 12.7 (79)
GWS Giants: Daniels 3, Lloyd 2, Williams 2, Perryman, Finlayson, de Boer, Cameron
Melbourne: Baker 2, Spargo 2, Rivers 2, Neal-Bullen, Hunt, Petracca, Pickett, Salem, Fritsch
GWS Giants: Green, Kelly, Daniels, Hopper, Whitfield, Keeffe
Melbourne: May, Oliver, Petracca, Gawn, Langdon, Rivers
GWS Giants: Nil
Melbourne: Jetta (ankle)
GWS Giants: Daniels for rough conduct on Petracca in the second quarter