LED BY star forward Isaac Heeney, Sydney has outlasted a plucky Carlton by 22 points at the SCG to stay within striking distance of the top four at the season's halfway mark.
The Swans' class up forward was telling as the game wore on, with the Blues unable to find an effective counter for Heeney's aerial power and athleticism, nor for the forward nous of fellow forwards Lance Franklin and Tom Papley, who shared six goals.
SWANS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats
Sydney led by just three points at the final change but booted the first three goals of the last quarter to create a match-winning break.
Heeney (22 disposals, 14 marks, three goals) was clearly the game's dominant figure and was awarded the Goodes-O'Loughlin Medal after the Swans pulled away for a 15.10 (100) to 11.12 (78) victory.
Franklin booted three goals on Sunday, including a trademark showstopper from the cusp of the 50m arc, to help settle a pulsating and pressure-laden contest in which momentum shifted throughout.
He now has 966 career goals, with expectation building that he will soon become the sixth man in VFL/AFL history to celebrate 1000 goals.
The 34-year-old grimaced while grabbing his left knee early in the final quarter, having been pinned in a tackle by opponent Liam Jones.
Franklin was slow to get to his feet but remained on the ground, continuing to draw plenty of attention from the Blues' defenders as Sydney booted 4.4 to 1.3 in a decisive fourth term.
He is also likely to come under Match Review scrutiny after collecting Carlton defender Nic Newman high as the pair contested a loose ground ball in the second quarter.
Four-time Coleman medallist Franklin and Carlton's Harry McKay, who leads the race for this season's goalkicking award, both loomed as potential match-winning forwards throughout a game played in intermittent drizzle.
McKay clutched a game-high four contested marks and slotted three goals, getting the better of opponent Tom McCartin.
But he will curse a day of what-ifs, near misses and five behinds, having hit the post and twice been trapped by desperate goal-saving tackles in front of a crowd of 29,882.
FRINGE PLAYER Former top Blue in fight for his spot
Franklin and Eddie Betts, the two most prolific Indigenous players in VFL/AFL history, both produced highlight-reel moments in the Marn Grook fixture that represents one of the highlights of Sir Doug Nicholls round.
Carlton captain Patrick Cripps, who required treatment for a finger injury in the second quarter, threatened to drag his team to victory.
Cripps finished with 27 possessions (18 contested), six tackles, six clearances and three goals but was unable to halt the the hosts' bursts of dominance.
The final quarter was a prime example, as was an opening term that Carlton largely controlled.
The Blues shot out to an early lead of 18 points, thanks partly to Betts' wizardry in the pocket, but Sydney replied with four goals in eight minutes to conjure a six-point lead at quarter-time.
Buddy's quality beats Harry's quantity
Throughout his career superstar forward Lance Franklin has been able to have more shots on goal than most, peaking with a remarkable 201 scoring shots in 2008. He won’t return to those sorts of numbers again, but the 34-year-old is now making the most of his opportunities, and kicked three goals straight against the Blues to make it 22.6 for the season. At the other end, Harry McKay was imposing in the air but failed to have the same impact on the scoreboard, kicking 3.5 when straighter shooting could’ve kept the Blues in the game.
Betts saves his best for Sir Doug Nicholls Round, again
Even in his 17th season, Eddie Betts continues to find new ways to make the difficult look easy. After Ed Curnow kicked the ball over Marc Pittonet’s head inside the Blues’ forward 50 during the first quarter, the Carlton goalsneak was waiting to gather the bouncing ball with his right hand then held it out like it was sitting on a platter. As is Eddie’s way, he ran toward the boundary line and, without the ball touching his left hand at any stage, snapped a goal off his right boot to serve up another Sir Doug Nicholls Round special, albeit not quite the standard of his 2016 Goal of the Year winner.
Walsh sprints to a wonderful 50 games
Sam Walsh marked his 50th game with another impressive display that included 33 disposals with 14 contested, nine clearances and three tackles. The 20-year-old became just the ninth Blue to play his first 50 games without a break, and was involved in an intriguing battle with Callum Mills. The 24-year-old Swan had a similar impact with 25 touches (13 contested), six clearances and seven tackles, but rather than simply cancelling each other out the gun midfielders were a key reason for this being such a close, enthralling contest for three quarters. Expect to enjoy more of this match-up for many years to come.
SYDNEY 5.3 8.4 11.6 15.10 (100)
CARLTON 4.3 8.5 10.9 11.12 (78)
Sydney: Heeney 3, Franklin 3, Papley 3, Hayward 2, Kennedy 2, Parker, Wicks
Carlton: McKay 3, Cripps 3, Betts 2, Silvagni, Williams, De Koning
Sydney: Heeney, Kennedy, Mills, Franklin, Papley, Lloyd, Parker
Carlton: Cripps, Walsh, Docherty, McKay, Fogarty, Betts
Carlton: Gibbons (hamstring)
Sydney: Taylor (unused)
Carlton: Murphy (replaced Gibbons)
Crowd: 29,822 at the SCG