THE WESTERN Bulldogs have bolstered their premiership credentials with a gutsy 19-point win over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
In a see-sawing, high-pressure contest, the Dogs were able to withstand a late charge from the Power to win 15.6 (96) to 12.5 (77) in one of the games of the season.
POWER v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats
Marcus Bontempelli (26 disposals and two goals) and Tom Liberatore (27 disposals and 12 clearances) starred for the Dogs, while up forward Aaron Naughton dominated with four goals.
The Bulldogs won the first six clearances of the game but struggled to make the most of this dominance until Josh Bruce took a strong contested mark in the goalsquare and kicked the Dogs' first goal at the nine-minute mark of the first term.
From there, their clearance supremacy started to be reflected on the scoreboard, with the Dogs adding another four consecutive goals including two to dangerous youngster Cody Weightman.
Port Adelaide finally responded late in the term through Mitch Georgiades, but a classy running goal in the dying stages from Bontempelli lifted the margin to 25 points at quarter-time.
But after the Dogs won the clearances 16-5 in the first quarter, the Power midfield stood up in the second term.
Led by Ollie Wines, who won four second-term clearances, the Power surged to kick the first five goals of the term, including a long-range bomb from Hamish Hartlett.
By the time Wines snapped a goal from a forward-50 stoppage, the Power remarkably found themselves in front.
Just when things looked to be spiraling out of control for the Dogs, Bontempelli slotted an important goal from a free kick to stem the bleeding.
The rest of the quarter was more of an armwrestle, but a late goal to Jason Johannisen gave the Dogs a one-point lead at the main break.
It was a high-pressure start to the third term, with ferocious tackling aplenty, but the Dogs slowly started to regain momentum.
They kicked the first four goals in the term, including two from Naughton who took an incredible high-flying mark deep inside 50.
It was again Georgiades who put an end to the Bulldogs' onslaught, kicking an important goal to keep the margin down to 19 points at three-quarter time.
Port Adelaide needed the first goal of the final term and it got one through Robbie Gray, whose shot on goal somehow bounced through the legs of Adam Treloar in the goalsquare.
Charlie Dixon then decided to join the party, kicking his first two goals of the game and causing headaches for the Dogs' defenders.
But the Dogs refused to wilt. Weightman kicked a stunning goal over his head and Naughton soon followed with his fourth goal to seal a memorable away win for the Bulldogs.
Hartlett runs down Doggies' speedster
Jason Johannisen is one of the fastest players in the competition, so when he scooped up the ball inside 50 with plenty of space in front of him, it looked certain he would run in for an easy shot on goal. Enter Hamish Hartlett. The veteran gave an incredible chase to run down the Norm Smith medallist and win a free kick right near the goal line. This moment reflected the brutal intensity and pressure that defined Saturday night's contest.
Naughton takes a screamer
Aaron Naughton is nicknamed the AstroNaught, and against the Power he lived up to his moniker after lifting off for one of his signature high-flying pack marks. The Dogs surged the ball deep into the forward pocket in the third term, which allowed Naughton to fly over the pack and take a stunning mark on his chest. He quickly converted to kick his third goal, to cap off what ended up being one of the best performances of his burgeoning career.
Weightman adds spark to Dogs' forward line
The Bulldogs have become one of the highest-scoring teams in the competition this season, mainly off the back of key-position stars Josh Bruce and Aaron Naughton. But on Saturday night, Cody Weightman showed that the Dogs also have a talented small forward to add to their scoring arsenal. The youngster had a breakout performance against the Power, kicking three goals while also showcasing an innate goal sense and a strong high-marking ability. The next challenge for the youngster will be ensuring he brings that effort and intensity consistently.
PORT ADELAIDE 2.1 8.2 9.4 12.5 (77)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 6.2 8.1 12.5 15.6 (96)
Port Adelaide: Fantasia 2, Georgiades 2, Dixon 2, Hartlett, Amon, Drew, Wines, Powell-Pepper, Gray
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 4, Weightman 3, Bontempelli 2, Bruce 2, Johannisen 2, McNeil, Hannan
Port Adelaide: Wines, Fantasia, Georgiades, Boak, Amon
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Naughton, Liberatore, Daniel, Weightman
Port Adelaide: Clurey (jaw)
Western Bulldogs: Wood (hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Martin Frederick (replaced Clurey)
Western Bulldogs: Hayden Crozier (replaced Wood)
Crowd: TBC at Adelaide Oval