ESSENDON breached West Coast's Optus Stadium fortress in a Saturday night thriller, with star forward Jake Stringer returning to lead his team to a brilliant 16-point come-from-behind win.
Down by 29 points late in the second quarter, the Bombers produced an exhilarating and relentless second half of attacking football to win 12.15 (87) to 11.5 (71), with Stringer the star in the big moments.
EAGLES v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
The former Bulldog kicked a crucial goal to keep his team in touch late in the third quarter before adding two more in the final term as the exciting Bombers race into the finals discussion.
In a poetic moment, former Eagle Alec Waterman sealed the match with a set shot, with the win leaving coach Ben Rutten's 5-6 team in eighth place on Saturday night.
The Bombers looked down and out in the second quarter when the efficient Eagles went on a five-goal run to open up their match-high lead, but injuries left the home team exposed.
Star midfielder Tim Kelly wrenched his right knee early in the second quarter, while young star Oscar Allen didn't emerge after half-time because of a head injury, which was confirmed as concussion post-match.
It was a cruel twist for the Eagles on the same night dual club champion Elliot Yeo returned from a 10-month battle with osteitis pubis and boosted their midfield strength.
The Eagles were ultimately overrun by a healthier, hungrier Essendon team that went inside 50 a massive 22 times to six in the final quarter, and restricted West Coast to 78 marks, taking away their outside game.
They kicked 3.7 to 1.0 in the final term in one of the most significant wins in a rebuild that is gathering momentum.
Midfielders Darcy Parish (36 disposals and 11 clearances) and Zach Merrett were superb, while Dyson Heppell's leadership behind the ball was crucial in the second half.
Essendon's unrelenting attack after half-time gave its forward opportunities, with Stringer, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (two goals) and Cale Hooker (two) taking advantage.
Defender Tom Barrass was a warrior for the Eagles on the last line, while Dom Sheed had a career-high 43 disposals, six clearances and a goal in an undermanned midfield.
Nic Naitanui controlled the ruck with 40 hitouts and had seven clearances himself, but the Eagles were unable to take full advantage of his dominance, losing their first game at home since last year's elimination final against Collingwood.
The result leaves the injury-hit team two games outside the top four and with significant ground now to make up if they want to challenge for this year' flag.
Kelly injury throws Yeo into the furnace
West Coast star Tim Kelly has been the Eagles' standout midfielder in the absence of Luke Shuey and Elliot Yeo, embracing the responsibility and becoming a match-winner. It would be left up to others on Saturday night, however, with the former Cat wrenching his right knee in a tackle from Zach Merrett in the opening moments of the second quarter. Kelly will undergo scans before the extent of his injury is confirmed, but it would certainly have frustrated the Eagles that just as their midfield strength was returning, another star went down. Yeo had a team-high three centre clearances at half-time, was fierce in his attack on opponents, and showed his booming kick remained after a long battle with osteitis pubis. The plan was to manage the dual club champion, however, and that plan was put under pressure with two men down.
Tippa's timely highlight
With less than two minutes to play in the second quarter, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti gathered a ball that was racing past his ankles as clean as could be and kicked a critical goal after wrong-footing two opponents. It was a significant moment, ending a five-goal run for the Eagles and pegging the margin back to a more manageable 23 points. When Kyle Langford marked and converted from the goalsquare moments later, the Bombers were alive. It was a game of big moments, and the Bombers stood tallest in the critical contests.
Watermans get chance to wrestle
It looked like being a fizzer for the Waterman family when Essendon recruit Alec travelled west to face his old club the same week brother Jake was dropped. But the Eagles' injury issues opened the door for Jake to play, coming on as the medical substitute early in the second quarter. He ran onto the ground and pushed forward immediately, kicking a brilliant goal little more than 20 seconds after he crossed the interchange gates. There were a handful of contests between the pair before Alec had his moment in the final term. There was plenty of love for the Bomber post-match from his former teammates.
WEST COAST 3.0 9.0 10.5 11.5 (71)
ESSENDON 2.4 5.7 9.8 12.15 (87)
West Coast: Kennedy 3, Waterman 2, Ah Chee, Cripps, Darling, Petruccelle, Ryan, Sheed
Essendon: Stringer 3, Hooker 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Cox, Jones, Langford, Snelling, Waterman
West Coast: Sheed, Naitanui, Barrass, Kennedy, Redden, Hurn
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, Stringer, Heppell, McGrath, Hind, Langford
West Coast: Kelly (knee), Allen (concussion)
Essendon: Wright (calf) replaced in the selected side by Jones
West Coast: Jake Waterman (replaced T.Kelly)
Essendon: Brayden Ham (unused)
Crowd: 41,883 at Optus Stadium