MELBOURNE'S 91-point demolition of Adelaide in Alice Springs last year was proof of the Demons' bonafides, which eventually culminated in a preliminary final appearance.

Twelve months later, about 1500km north in Darwin, the Crows rallied from 31 points down in the third quarter to defeat a wasteful Melbourne by two points and end any hope of a season revival.

Late inclusion Sam Weideman had the chance to be the Demons' hero when he plucked a pack grab in the final minute, but steered his set shot to the left and time soon expired.

CROWS STEAL A WIN Full match coverage and stats

Adelaide kicked eight of the game's last nine goals to avoid three consecutive losses, maintain its top-eight spot and post a thrilling 14.6 (90) to 12.16 (88) triumph.

Weideman wasn't Melbourne's sole culprit in front of goal in the final half an hour, with Max Gawn missing from just inside 50 only minutes earlier.

Jeff Garlett also dropped a chest mark on the goal line that resulted in a rushed behind, then Nathan Jones, Tim Smith and James Harmes missed gilt-edged chances and Jayden Hunt kicked another out on the full.

They all came after Garlett's third major for the match inside the first five minutes of the fourth quarter gave the Dees a 22-point buffer.

Melbourne kicked just one goal from its last 12 scoring shots, including 1.8 in the final term.

The Crows, who lost co-captain Rory Sloane (hamstring) early in the second term, hit the front for the first time all night when Brad Crouch slotted his third major 24 minutes into the last quarter.

It was fitting Crouch was that man, given it was his finish on the run 11 minutes into the third term that provided the impetus for his team's second-half fightback.

He added 29 disposals (13 contested), seven clearances and five tackles to help offset the absence of his brother Matt, while Tom Lynch's return game was excellent with 26 touches, 13 marks and three majors.

WATCH The thrilling final two minutes

That pair were prominent from the get-go – along with running defender Rory Laird (31 possessions) – but Adelaide roared into contention once they found more allies.

Bryce Gibbs kept Melbourne ball-winner Clayton Oliver to just two disposals in the third quarter, when the Crows kicked four goals to two to slash the difference to 16 at the last break.

Oliver had 23 to half-time and finished with 34, but that quiet patch proved decisive as the Demons' slick ball movement from the first two quarters dried up.

They led by 25 points at that stage, which quickly became a game-high 31 when Mitch Hannan goaled from close range after an Angus Brayshaw tackle won his side a free kick.

Brayshaw (23, six inside 50s) was a key figure in Melbourne's success to that point, in a return to his on-ball role after spending more time on the wing of late.

Gawn (25 disposals, seven marks) thrashed young Adelaide ruck counterpart Reilly O'Brien (seven disposals) around the ground, and Harmes (29) and Christian Petracca were also damaging in the early going.

The match turned in an instant, starting with Crouch's second goal.

Taylor Walker produced a magnificent 50m set-shot strike soon after, then an impressive Lynch major helped ensure the contest would go down to the wire.

Earlier, the Demons enjoyed their highest-scoring first term of the season – 6.3 (39) – to take a deserved 15-point edge into quarter-time.

For all the focus on Melbourne's lengthy injury list and off-season surgeries, the major issue had been its competition-worst kicking inside 50 and that seemed to be remedied as the offence began to click.

But the Demons wobbled when it mattered most and watched as the more efficient Crows made them pay on the scoreboard.

Melbourne: The Demons lost first-year defender Marty Hore (calf soreness) and Christian Salem (illness) before the game, with Jay Kennedy Harris and Sam Weideman replacing them, but otherwise came through unscathed. 

Adelaide: Co-captain and star midfielder Rory Sloane (hamstring) didn't return after a contest with James Harmes early in second quarter in a major blow to the Crows' hopes.

Melbourne will try to avoid losing four matches on the trot when it faces Collingwood in the clubs' annual Queen's Birthday showdown on Monday week. Adelaide is back on the winner's list and will continue its bid to return to the finals against the Giants next Saturday night.

MELBOURNE  6.3   9.4  11.8   12.16 (88)
ADELAIDE     4.0   5.3   9.4    14.6 (90)

Melbourne: Garlett 3, Hannan, Hunt, Weideman, Smith, Petracca, Jones, Brayshaw, Harmes, Oliver
Adelaide: B.Crouch 3, Lynch 3, Jenkins 2, Betts 2, Gallucci, Walker, Murphy, Ellis-Yolmen

Melbourne: Gawn, Harmes, Brayshaw, Oliver, Hibberd, Petracca
Adelaide: Lynch, B. Crouch, Laird, Greenwood, Ellis-Yolmen, Atkins

MelbourneChristian Salem (illness) replaced in selected side by Sam Weideman, Marty Hore (calf soreness) replaced in selected side by Jay Kennedy Harris
Adelaide: Rory Sloane (hamstring), Kyle Hartigan (team balance) replaced in selected side by David Mackay

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Foot, O'Gorman, Mitchell

Official crowd: 10,634 at TIO Stadium