THE SYDNEY Swans have withstood a fierce second-half challenge from North Melbourne and cemented their top-two spot following a 16-point triumph at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
Lance Franklin's four majors and a vintage performance from a rejuvenated Adam Goodes propelled the Swans to a 14.7 (91) to 10.15 (75) victory, and back above West Coast on the ladder with a 9-2 win-loss record.
Despite the Roos' endeavour, their season is back on a knife-edge at 5-6 following their third loss in four games.
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Goodes bagged three majors from 14 touches, shrugging off the booing of Roos supporters – who ignored Jack Ziebell's appeals to respect the dual Brownlow medallist - to wield a significant impact on the match.
Franklin flitted in and out of the game, but had the better of Scott Thompson, and in typical style stood up to kick the match-sealer in the final minute with a wobbly 55m bomb.
Lewis Jetta (20 possessions, one goal) and co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (28) were the architects from half-back, while star midfielders Luke Parker (33), Josh Kennedy (27) and Dan Hannebery (22) were influential.
Todd Goldstein (17 disposals, 37 hit-outs) continued his stellar season in the ruck, but the Roos never hit the front despite onballers Ben Cunnington (23, 10 clearances), Andrew Swallow (19) and Jack Ziebell (19) helping to win clearances 43-27.
The Swans built the hard-fought win on a dominant second term, when they booted five goals to one, opening a 29-point advantage at half-time.
North rallied after the long break and interim coach Darren Crocker's men threatened to steal a huge upset when they finished with all the run after trailing by 20 points at the final change.
The Swans wobbled under pressure, but from six scoring shots the Roos only managed 2.4 to 2.0 and the visitors held on.
"It was a pretty strong display that first half of football and they were always going to come and had their turn in the second half, but we were able to kick some important goals at important times and held them at bay," Swans coach John Longmire said post-match.
The Roos were left lamenting a crucial missed set shot from 30m by Jarrad Waite at the 21-minute mark, which would have brought them back within a kick.
When the impressive Shaun Higgins (17 disposals, two goals) dragged his 50m set shot wide with a minute to go the game was just about up.
Crocker said the Roos "more than matched" the Swans, except for the frustrating second quarter.
"Turnovers just killed us, their first six goals of the game came from our turnovers, giving the ball back to them," he said.
"You always know with Sydney they're going to come after you and their pressure's going to be pretty high.
"But you've got to be able to absorb that pressure and for the most part we did, but just for that period of time we just coughed the ball up too much."
The Swans have now registered six-straight wins, and Longmire's men will rest easy over the bye knowing their shot at redemption from a dismal 2014 Grand Final is well on track.
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The 12th-placed Roos – who have lost nine of the last 11 against the Swans - are stuck in a dog fight just to play finals after again falling short against one of the League's elite teams, having also lost to Hawthorn and Fremantle this season.
They face a critical clash with Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium next Saturday before the bye.
The injury to Dan Hannebery was thankfully not as serious as it first appeared. Picture: AFL Media
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.4 4.6 8.11 10.15 (75)
SYDNEY SWANS 4.3 9.5 12.7 14.7 (91)
North Melbourne: Thomas 2, Higgins 2, Nahas 2, Petrie, Harvey, Wright, Dumont
Sydney Swans: Franklin 4, Goodes 3, Tippett 2, Rohan 2, Jetta, Cunningham, Hannebery
North Melbourne: Goldstein, Ziebell, Cunnington, Hansen, Harvey
Sydney Swans: McVeigh, Rampe, Franklin, Parker, Kennedy, Laidler, Goodes
North Melbourne: Nil
Sydney Swans: Grundy (knee)
North Melbourne: Trent Dumont replaced Scott McMahon in the third quarter
Sydney Swans: Dan Robinson replaced Gary Rohan in the final quarter
Umpires: Shaun Ryan, Ben Ryan, Jacob Mollison
Official crowd: 32,217 at Etihad Stadium