ESSENDON has ensured Fremantle's road woes have continued with a gritty seven-point victory over the Dockers at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't the Bombers' best performance of the season, but they stood up when it mattered most to register their third win of the year with a 10.8 (68) to 8.13 (61) triumph.
BOMBERS v DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
There wasn't much between the two sides for the majority of the round nine contest, with a three-goal-to-one final quarter ensuring the Bombers got the points and sent the Dockers stumbling to their fifth loss of the season.
Darcy Parish was the star of the show for Essendon with a game-high 39 disposals and a whopping 10 clearances, while off-season recruit Nick Hind continued his excellent start to life at his new club by collecting a career-high 31 touches across half back.
Andrew Brayshaw (33 disposals), Nat Fyfe (29) and Adam Cerra (28) all won plenty of the ball for the Dockers, while talls Sean Darcy (22 touches and 38 hitouts) and Matt Taberner (four goals) also excelled.
But for all their dominance on the stat sheet - the Dockers won the inside 50 count by two (49-47) and the clearances by seven (38-31) - it was the Bombers that were narrowly in front on the scoreboard when the final siren rang.
With Andrew McGrath (27 disposals) and Zach Merrett (22) getting their hands on the ball first and Harrison Jones (two goals) on fire up forward, Essendon made a fast start to open up a narrow six-point advantage at quarter-time.
Fremantle upped the ante at the start of the second, with Caleb Serong putting the clamps on Merrett and Taberner and Rory Lobb impressive up forward, and the visitors could have been in front if not for some wayward kicking in front of goal.
An unusually quiet Michael Walters (13 disposals) snapped truly to put the Dockers in front early in the third term and their three-point advantage at the final break could have been even more if Taberner had not squandered a couple of gilt-edged opportunities to score.
Andrew Phillips got away from Darcy to give the Bombers the lead at the start of the final quarter and Brayden Ham bobbed up with the sealer late as Essendon held on.
Marvel woes continue for the old heave-ho
The Dockers haven't managed a victory at the Docklands since the ground was renamed in late 2018, with their losing streak at Marvel Stadium now up to seven straight matches. They are also 1-4 on the road this season and Justin Longmuir's side can't be considered legitimate finals contenders until they fix this massive issue.
Baby Bombers' journey just beginning
Essendon fans haven't had much to smile about in recent times and the amount of days since its most recent finals match continues to rise, but there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel for Ben Rutten's youthful side. There are going to be a fair share of ups and downs - Sunday's match certainly showed that - but the Bombers nailed last year's draft, so don't expect the red and black juggernaut to be down the bottom rungs of the ladder for too much longer.
Cerra's asking price just went up
The Dockers have had a new contract in front of rising star Adam Cerra for a while now, but they may be forced to pay him even more if they want to retain him based on his efforts against the Bombers. Cerra returned from a syndesmosis injury in style to pick up 28 disposals and five inside 50s in an eye-catching performance that is sure to raise questions about where the talented 21-year-old will play next season. A host of Victorian clubs are closely monitoring Cerra's contract situation and the Dockers are still hopeful the young midfielder will remain in Perth.
ESSENDON 3.2 5.2 7.6 10.8 (68)
FREMANTLE 2.2 4.6 7.9 8.13 (61)
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Jones 2, Langford, Parish, Redman, Wright, Phillips, Ham
Fremantle: Taberner 4, Cerra, Lobb, Walters, Mundy
Essendon: Parish, Hind, Redman, McGrath, Heppell, McDonald-Tipungwuti
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Darcy, Cerra, Serong, Mundy, Fyfe
Essendon: Smith (hamstring)
Essendon: Cox (replaced Smith)
Fremantle: Conca (unused)
Crowd: TBC at Marvel Stadium