THE WESTERN Bulldogs saved their best for when it mattered most, producing a superb late comeback to overrun Carlton by 16 points at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The premiership fancies trailed by 27 points late in the third term, but booted eight of the final nine goals of an entertaining contest to run out 16.11 (107) to 13.13 (91) winners.
BULLDOGS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
It was the tireless work of Marcus Bontempelli (32 disposals) that kept the Dogs in the contest during the first half and the inspirational skipper lifted yet again in the fourth quarter to help put the final dagger in the Blues.
Bontempelli received ample support from Jack Macrae (32 disposals) and Tom Liberatore (27 touches and 13 clearances), while spearhead Josh Bruce put the polish on the performance with five goals in an eye-catching duel with former Bulldog Liam Jones.
Led by Eddie Betts (five goals) and Harry McKay (four goals) up forward and with Sam Docherty (31 disposals) marshalling things down back, the Blues were brave for so long and seemingly had the game at their mercy when they led by almost five goals late in the third quarter.
But with skipper Patrick Cripps held to just 15 disposals and Sam Walsh (24 touches) unable to step up when it mattered, it was the Dogs who picked up the valuable four points to keep the pressure on Melbourne at the top of the ladder.
Liberatore was doing as he liked early as the Dogs opened up a two-goal advantage midway through the first quarter, but some magic up forward from Betts ensured the Blues were in touch at the first break.
Matt Owies (two goals) followed Betts' lead to put the Blues in front early in the second and their half-time advantage could have been even greater than 12 points if not for some sloppy misses in front of goal.
McKay escaped the tight clutches of Alex Keath to get in on the act to help push the Blues' lead out to as much as 27 points midway through the penultimate term, but Bruce and Aaron Naughton (two goals) replied late as the Dogs stayed within 14 points at the final break.
Lachie Hunter and Bontempelli got the ball rolling with the first two goals of the final quarter and the Blues had no answer as the Dogs steamed away to register their seventh victory of the season.
Brilliant Bont at his brilliant best
|The highlight reel for the Western Bulldogs captain is long and ever-growing and it was added to yet again with another best-on-ground performance against the Blues. Bontempelli finished with a joint game-high 32 disposals, but it was his 10 clearances and eight tackles that set him apart from everyone else on Marvel Stadium. When Bont is in this type of mood the Dogs are near impossible to beat.
Guess who's back? Eddie's back...
The old adage states that it's never wise to write off a champion and the naysayers were put back in their box as Eddie Betts turned back the clock with a vintage performance against the Dogs. Betts' five-goal haul was his best in the famous navy blue since round nine in 2012, and shows there's still life in the old legs of the 34-year-old.
Khamis and collected
It might be a long way from South Sudan to Marvel Stadium, but Buku Khamis proved there are going to be more players coming from migrant backgrounds in the future as he produced a polished display on debut for the Bulldogs. The 21-year-old finished the match with 11 disposals across half back and rarely looked out of place at the top level.
Crowd: TBC at Marvel Stadium