CARLTON'S 2021 salvage mission is underway after holding on to win a thrilling and chaotic clash against an inaccurate Fremantle by 16 points at the MCG on Saturday night.

The Blues squandered an early 28-point lead to trail by one point in the final term, but they held on to win back-to-back games for the first time since rounds three and four, winning 12.8 (80) to 8.16 (64). 

DOCKERS v BLUES Full match coverage and stats

After a helter-skelter final term that saw both teams lose their heads for periods, the important win was sealed by young Carlton star Sam Walsh, who snapped a brilliant goal from the boundary.

The victory steadies the Blues' previously tumultuous season while denying the Dockers a spot in the top eight in what was a relocated home game for Justin Longmuir's men.  

05:44 Mins
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Highlights: Fremantle v Carlton

The Dockers and Blues clash in round 16

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Carlton was led in many ways by the young players it has been waiting on to emerge, with midfielder Paddy Dow at the forefront with 22 disposals and a team-high eight clearances.    

Former Giant Matt Kennedy (22 and four clearances) was also influential in the midfield, while Walsh drove the Blues home with nine of his 25 touches coming in the final term.

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Walsh seals it with GOTY contender

Sam Walsh continues to blossom with this incredible Goal of the Year contender

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Jacob Weitering was a rock in an under-siege defence opposed to Rory Lobb, while Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay was the game's most productive forward with three goals.    

The Blues built a 28-point lead on the back of attacking ball-movement through the corridor and darting passes inside 50, with the Dockers fumbling and unorganised in comparison.

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Blues too quick as Owies puts it through

The Blues left their opponents for dust with this blistering passage of play which ended in a Matthew Owies goal

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Led by Dow, who had 11 disposals and six clearances for the opening quarter, they appeared set for a big win at the MCG after the game was relocated from Optus Stadium due to COVID-19 precautions.  

The Dockers' young midfield took over in the second and third quarters, however, to build a 37-18 clearance advantage and level the scores at the final change.

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Walters makes it three Dockers goals in a row

Fremantle has responded with three unanswered goals thanks to this finish from Michael Walters

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The Blues kicked 2.5 to 0.1 in the final term, including Walsh's brilliant snap, to secure a win that keeps them mathematically in the hunt to play finals.

The inaccurate Fremantle will rue more bad kicking for goal after missing the chance to replace Greater Western Sydney in eighth spot.

Ruckman Sean Darcy was brilliant with 40 hit-outs, seven clearances and a goal to continue a breakout season. 

Midfielders Andrew Brayshaw (28 and two goals) and Adam Cerra (24 and seven clearances) were also prominent, with the engine room driving the Dockers' periods of ascendency.

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Young Dockers gun snaps through a tumbling ripper

Dockers star Andy Brayshaw finds the loose ball and open space to bend through this brilliant goal

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Captain Nat Fyfe got through his return from a dislocated shoulder unscathed, finishing with 20 disposals and five clearances and holding up under several ferocious tackles from the Blues.

Cripps fights on
Carlton captain Patrick Cripps hobbled off the ground late in the first quarter after appearing to injure his right ankle when kicking for goal. The star midfielder booted Freo defender Brandon Walker and grabbed for his foot, with fears he had suffered an ankle injury that would end his game. Cripps returned to start the second quarter and battled on to finish with 23 disposals and three clearances. The injury clearly hampered the skipper, who kicked only once in each of the second, third and fourth quarters, finishing with five kicks and 18 handballs.

Patrick Cripps is helped from the field in round 16, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

Dockers radar off again  
Poor kicking for goal has been a theme of Fremantle's season, with Saturday night's 8.16 a return to the Dockers' wayward ways after a good fortnight. A lot of the Dockers' most costly misses were in general play, with blown chances from Darcy and improving forward Liam Henry coming on the eve of three-quarter time as Freo squandered an opportunity to grab the lead for the first time. A lethal weapon in front of goal for so long, even Michael Walters missed a chance he would normally nail, continuing a quiet run of form for the All Australian.   

Liam Henry rues a missed shot at goal in round 16, 2021. Picture: AFL Photos

Blues defence holds up
Carlton has proven it can score heavily, but its tendency to leak at an even higher rate is why its season has slipped away. On Saturday night, the backline was the reason the Blues were able to secure an important win, with Jacob Weitering the hero in defence. Weitering was a constant brick wall for the Dockers, taking 10 marks, rebounding from defensive 50 nine times, and racking up nine intercepts. With Sam Docherty and Zac Williams missing, Nic Newman (24 and nine rebounds), Adam Saad (19 and five), Liam Stocker (13 and five) and Liam Jones (13 and five) all had their moments in a backline that was constantly under threat through the second and third quarters, conceding 32 inside 50s to 12 in that period.      

FREMANTLE        0.4   4.8   8.15   8.16 (64)
CARLTON               4.2   7.2   10.3   12.8 (80)  

Fremantle: Brayshaw 2, Darcy, Henry, Lobb, Switkowski, Treacy, Walters  
Carlton: McKay 3, Betts 2, Silvagni 2, Walsh, De Koning, Dow, Kennedy, Owies

Fremantle: Darcy, Brayshaw, Mundy, Ryan, Cerra, Pearce
Carlton: Dow, Walsh, Weitering, McKay, Kennedy, Silvagni, Newman, Saad

Fremantle: Nil
Carlton: Cripps (foot)

Fremantle: Mitch Crowden (unused)
Carlton: Matthew Cottrell (unused)

Crowd: 12,103 at the MCG