FREMANTLE remains undefeated and sits two games clear at the top of the ladder after a clinical 28-point win over Essendon on Saturday night.
The Dockers suffocated the Bombers with three quarters of intolerable pressure to win 12.8 (80) to 7.10 (52) at Domain Stadium.
The margin was 54 points at three-quarter time as the Bombers were held to just three goals. But they kicked four goals to none in the last quarter to massage the margin as the Dockers' intensity dropped off.
"I thought our first three quarters were super," Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said.
"There were a few mitigating circumstances in the last. I'm not worried about it. We just really wanted to spin our backs. The way we were rotating, two forwards off, two backs, it just left us structurally a bit all over the shop, which didn't help. But they won the ball pretty well in the last quarter."
Lyon was really pleased with his side's ability to turn the ball over in their forward half.
"The last few weeks we focused on turning the ball," Lyon said.
"We've really lifted in that over the last couple of weeks.
"We've been happy with the way we're going but we're certainly not satisfied and we didn't play football that we're satisfied with tonight."
"I'm not sure if the margin flattered us or not, but the game did get away from us in that second quarter," Hird said post-match.
"A lot of it was to do with our ball use and our inability to use the ball properly and that really hurts you.
"I think they're definitely the best team we've played. Was our performance as good this week as it was against the other two? I'm not sure. So that's hard to tell."
Fremantle's midfield dominated courtesy of first-class service from ruckman Aaron Sandilands, who had 33 hit-outs.
Lachie Neale was magnificent gathering 33 disposals while David Mundy (28) and Nat Fyfe (27) were very influential as well and their defence was virtually impenetrable for three quarters.
Matthew Pavlich finished with four goals and Hayden Ballantyne kicked two.
Docker Alex Pearce takes a strong mark in his first AFL game. Picture: AFL Media
Jobe Watson fought on throughout the night for the Bombers finishing with 28 touches and a goal.
Brendon Goddard gathered a game-high 35 possessions, while Dyson Heppell had a good first half but was beaten by Fyfe in their head-to-head battle.
The Bombers were fantastic around the stoppages in the opening term, not allowing Fremantle's in-form midfield a chance to get on top. Essendon won the clearances 13-8 and led the contested possessions to quarter-time.
The visitors booted the first goal through Jackson Merrett, but the Dockers regained control by winning the ball across half-back and dominated the next 15 minutes.
Ballantyne, Stephen Hill and Matthew Pavlich all goaled in quick succession before Zac Clarke stretched the margin to 20 points.
Zach Merrett briefly stemmed the tide with a nice goal on the run to make the margin 14 points at the first change.
The Dockers dominated the second term to blow the game open and it all started in the middle with Sandilands' ruck work. He fed Fyfe, Mundy and Neale as the Dockers kicked five consecutive goals in first 11 minutes of the term.
Pavlich kicked two of them with his second coming from a picture perfect centre clearance. Sandilands palmed it to Fyfe on the burst and he kicked long to Pavlich's advantage side and the skipper did the rest.
Fremantle's pressure was manic and the Bombers' possessions were panicked. Six of the Dockers' first half goals came from forward half turnovers as the Bombers struggled to string clean possessions together.
They did break through late in the term with Zach Merrett finding Daniher free inside 50m to reduce the margin to 37 points at the main break.
The Dockers marched on in the third term with Pavlich slotting his fourth before Clancee Pearce and Michael Walters both produced deft left-foot snaps out of stoppages close to goal with Sandilands again the architect.
Further souring Essendon's night, defender Mark Baguley was reported for rough conduct after a heavy collision with Michael Barlow.
The Bombers kicked just three points for the term and trailed by 54 points at three-quarter time.
Fremantle has an eight-day break before facing the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium. The Bombers have only a six-day break to recover before fronting up to North Melbourne next Friday night.
FREMANTLE 4.3 9.4 12.6 12.8 (80)
ESSENDON 2.1 3.3 3.6 7.10 (52)
Fremantle: Pavlich 4, Ballantyne 2, Mayne, Hill, Clarke, Neale, C. Pearce, Walters
Essendon: Z. Merrett, J. Merrett, Daniher, Colyer, Howlett, Watson, Gleeson
Fremantle: Neale, Fyfe, Pavlich, Mundy, Sandilands, C. Pearce, Johnson
Essendon: Baguley, Watson, Goddard, Stanton, Z. Merrett
Fremantle: Matt de Boer replaced Matt Taberner in the fourth quarter
Essendon: Michael Gleeson replaced Will Hams in the third quarter
Reports: Mark Baguley reported for rough conduct on Michael Barlow in the third quarter
Umpires: Rosebury, Hosking, Ryan
Crowd: 37,535 at Domain Stadium