FREMANTLE has finally found itself on the other side of a wayward goalkicking performance, taking enough chances against a wasteful Gold Coast to win an ugly scrap at Optus Stadium by 27 points on Saturday.
In an uninspiring match that saw both teams' skills desert them for long periods, the Dockers were able to get on top in the second half and keep their slim finals hopes alive, winning 11.10 (76) to 6.13 (49).
It took the skill of veteran David Mundy and the sharp shooting of teenage forward Josh Treacy to break the game open in the third quarter, with Michael Walters and Liam Henry converting difficult set shots to seal the deal.
The Dockers finished the clash with more goals than behinds for just the second time this season, moving to 6-7 ahead of their round 14 bye and staying in touch with the top eight.
Mundy took control of the match in the third quarter, winning five clearances and eight disposals to drive a six-goal quarter that opened up a 21-point lead at the last change.
Treacy, meanwhile, kicked two long-range goals with his textbook set shot routine, becoming the Dockers' spearhead in the absence of injured gun Matt Taberner.
DOCKERS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
At the other end, returning key defender Alex Pearce blanketed young Gold Coast star Ben King, holding the tall forward to 0.2 and getting through unscathed after a horror run with injury.
Defender James Aish (31 and five inside 50s) and Andrew Brayshaw (29 and six clearances) were among the leading ball-winners, while defender Luke Ryan (29 and six rebound 50s) capitalised in a match that saw both team's half-backs mopping up their opponents' wasteful disposal.
Gold Coast youngster Will Powell (26 and eight rebound 50s) did likewise at the other end, while star Touk Miller continued a brilliant run of form with 31 disposals and a goal, fighting through the close checking of Caleb Serong.
The Suns slipped to 4-9 out of their bye, however, and have now lost four of their past five games as their season takes a disappointing turn.
Their kicking for goal, particularly in a 0.5 second quarter, and decision-making with the ball left a lot to be desired.
Both teams could at least hang their hats on strong defensive work-rate in the opening quarter, but the match quickly descended into an error-riddled scrap.
In perfect, sunny conditions, both teams made repeated skill and decision-making errors that would have had their coaches pulling their hair out.
The Dockers were slow to move the ball off half back, while Gold Coast ran quickly defensively to clog up their own back half.
When the Suns got on top in the second term, their radar was as wayward as the Dockers' has been in recent weeks, heading to the main break eight points behind and missing their opportunity to make a run at the home team.
Their preference to clog up their back half meant they were always on the back foot, allowing Fremantle to control possession through the second half, with the Dockers dominating disposals (392-318), marks (134-89) and uncontested possessions (253-193).
Pearce takes the crown
Fremantle defender Alex Pearce reminded everyone of his significant ability as a key defender in his first game back from another knee injury. The impressive 25-year-old recovered just in time to cover several backline injuries and locked down on Gold Coast forward Ben King, keeping the young star goalless for the first time in 12 games this season. The Suns did King no favours with their ball use, but Pearce's spoiling and bodywork were top shelf, and his ability to get through unscathed was a massive tick for the Dockers.
Young star Matt Rowell was back at the site of his most recent knee injury, playing his first game since the round one clash against West Coast at Optus Stadium. It was a low-key return for the Gold Coast jet, finishing with 14 disposals and three clearances. The 19-year-old made his way to the bench for the first centre bounce before being told he was starting on-field and hustling into the forward line. From there he attended several centre bounces, but simply getting through unscathed would be seen as a win for Rowell, who will no doubt be better for the run.
Dockers finally take their chances
For all the skill errors that marred this match, the Dockers' conversion in front of goal was impressive. When the margin was cut to two points late in the third quarter, several Fremantle players who have previously been culprits stood up to covert difficult chances. After Rory Lobb kicked his first goal, Sean Darcy, Josh Treacy and Michael Walters all converted set shots from beyond 45m. The match could have looked very different had the trio not stepped up and delivered after a wayward season for the team.
FREMANTLE 2.2 3.4 9.7 11.10 (76)
GOLD COAST 1.3 1.8 5.9 6.13 (49)
Fremantle: Mundy 2, Treacy 2, Lobb 2, Schultz, Colyer, Darcy, Walters, Henry
Gold Coast: Rankine 2, Burgess 2, Flanders, Miller
Fremantle: Mundy, Pearce, Treacy, Darcy, Aish, Brayshaw, Ryan, Lobb
Gold Coast: Miller, Powell, Swallow, Rankine, Greenwood
Gold Coast: Sam Collins (ankle) replaced in the selected side by Caleb Graham
Fremantle: Connor Blakely (unused)
Gold Coast: Josh Corbett (unused)
Crowd: 27,318 at Optus Stadium