FREMANTLE has surged back into the top eight with a thrilling four-point win against back-to-back premier Richmond at Optus Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Dockers, whose season appeared done after a spate of injuries to key players, jumped from 12th and into eighth spot, winning 7.13 (55) to 6.15 (51) and all but killing off the Tigers' September chances.
Justin Longmuir's team ended round 20 in eighth spot after Port Adelaide defeated Greater Western Sydney on Sunday night, giving them a fighting chance to end a six-year run outside finals.
Midfielder Andrew Brayshaw was the hero with a career-high 39 disposals, including two crucial clearances deep in defence in the final 20 seconds as the Dockers held off repeated surges forward from the Tigers.
The young leader stepped up in the absence of skipper Nat Fyfe, also laying a game-high 12 tackles and winning eight clearances.
Midfielders Adam Cerra (33 and nine inside 50s) and Caleb Serong (20 and a goal) lifted when the game was on the line, with veteran David Mundy doing likewise in a brutal contest.
DOCKERS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
Richmond held a nine-point lead 10 minutes into the final term and looked to have broken their younger opponents after clutch goals from Matthew Parker, Kane Lambert and Jack Riewoldt.
But Dockers forward Lachie Schultz took a brilliant pack mark and converted his set shot to cut the margin to three, before Serong snapped the go-ahead goal with 11 minutes to play.
The match shaped as the last fling for both teams at keeping their finals hopes alive, and the Tigers would appear all but finished after now losing six of their last seven clashes. Their stronger percentage means they can't be completely discounted.
Captain Trent Cotchin (32 disposals and six inside 50s) was superb, while midfielder Dion Prestia returned to have 31 touches.
Defender Sydney Stack was excellent across half-back, with ruckman Toby Nankervis giving everything in a heavyweight ruck battle with Darcy.
The skies cleared in time for the first bounce, but the wind howled through Optus Stadium and wreaked havoc with both teams' kicking skills.
The Dockers adjusted to the conditions better in general play and were able to move the ball with more efficiency, with Matt Taberner kicking the opening goal in his 100th game and Travis Colyer converting on the run.
Young Tiger Rhyan Mansell got a perfect bounce to get the Tigers on the board with a 60m bomb 22 minutes into the opening term, but that was the last goal for more than a quarter.
The Dockers had created chances but been inaccurate in the opening term, and it became contagious in the second as the two teams combined for 0.11.
For their ascendency in general play, Fremantle had only an eight-point lead to show for it at half time, setting up the brutal second half scrap for a spot in the top eight, which the Dockers eventually won.
A touch of magic for milestone man
Richmond's coaches hadn't even returned to their box after half time when Matt Taberner opened the second half with a sensational goal, snapping on his left foot as he ran towards the pocket. They would have heard the roar, however, and understood the goal drought was over. Taberner was important in his 100th game, kicking three goals and taking his season tally to 32. With Rory Lobb injured, he carried a significant workload and pushed hard up the ground when ruckman Darcy rotated forward. Injury-riddled for much of his career, Taberner's 2021 has been the best of his career, surpassing his 29 goals from last year.
Banfield's brutal knock
Forward Bailey Banfield has returned to the team as a pressure forward and he did what he does best when he laid a crunching tackle on David Astbury in the second quarter. So committed was he to the tackle, he went down hard with the Richmond defender and hit the turf on the boundary with his head, leaving the ground on a medical cart. The Docker was walking post game in a welcome sight, but will certainly miss next week due to the concussion protocols.
Goal drought exposes gap to top teams
There was no questioning the effort from Fremantle and Richmond with a top eight spot on the line, but a collective lack of finishing class in the second quarter showed both sides are a way off the top six. The Tigers kicked 0.7 in the second term, while Fremantle booted 0.4 as they entered the main break with a combined 3.18 on the scoreboard. Conditions were windy, but they were not an excuse for several of the simple shots that were sprayed as some of the later sharpshooting proved. Longmuir admitted the goalkicking was no longer a surprise and his Dockers will need to clean up their kicking to hold eighth and do the spot justice in September.
FREMANTLE 2.6 2.10 5.12 7.13 (55)
RICHMOND 1.1 1.8 3.14 6.15 (51)
Fremantle: Taberner 3, Schultz 2, Colyer, Serong
Richmond: Parker 2, Riewoldt, Lambert, Lynch, Mansell
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Mundy, Cerra, Ryan, Serong, Taberner, Young
Richmond: Cotchin, Prestia, Stack, Short, Rioli, Lambert
Fremantle: Banfield (concussion)
Fremantle: Connor Blakely (replaced Banfield)
Richmond: Josh Caddy (unused)
Crowd: 24,979 at Optus Stadium