GEELONG has handed Essendon a football lesson about playing with dare and dash in a dominant 69-point win at Etihad Stadium, with the Cats reviving their stuttering season and dealing a crushing blow to the Bombers' finals aspirations on Saturday night.

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After a heavy loss to West Coast in Perth last round, the Cats (5-5) bounced back ruthlessly and made a mockery of critics daring to write them off from the finals race with the 19.8 (122) to 7.11 (53) triumph. 

Before the match, Bombers coach James Hird was asked if his side's season was at the crossroads, and after four losses in five games they have some soul-searching to do to stop their campaign sliding into the abyss. 

"I think you (media) actually said that (the season's at the crossroads) and I actually said 'Well, it's an important game for us to win'," Hird said post-match.

"And it was - it was an important game to win. I think it puts us 4-6, which is disappointing. But it's certainly not over.

"In the next couple of weeks we need to play better and we've got two very formidable opponents (West Coast and Hawthorn)." 

Geelong and the Bombers have now swapped rungs on the ladder, with Essendon tumbling from 10th to 12th, while a healthy percentage lift boosted the Cats.

Chris Scott's men set up the win with a nine-goal to nil first half, including six majors in a blistering second term.

It was the first time Essendon has been held goalless before half-time since round 17, 1984 – a premiership year – but this current outfit looks miles away, impotent in attack and struggling to match it with genuine finals contenders.

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Under the closed roof, the Dons became just the second team not to kick a first half goal at Etihad Stadium in 723 AFL games, and were booed from the field by their own supporters at half-time. It was their lowest score at the long break since round three, 1968.

They finally got on the board two minutes after the restart via Brent Stanton, but any thought of a comeback was expunged from the next centre bounce when the impressive Josh Caddy kicked truly from 55m.

Caddy (20 disposals, two goals), swingman Harry Taylor (33, 10 marks), James Kelly (28) and Darcy Lang (22) were superb for the Cats.

Spearhead Tom Hawkins bagged four goals – including the 300th of his career just before half-time – in an even battle with Cale Hooker, while Steven Motlop and Steve Johnson also booted four majors.

Hooker, fellow defender Michael Hurley and eighth-gamer Elliott Kavanagh (25 disposals) stood up on a dirty night for Essendon.

The writing was on the wall early for the Dons' 11th loss to Geelong in 13 meetings when young spearhead Joe Daniher missed four set shots inside 20 minutes. 

It followed Jake Carlisle's struggles in front of goal last week and spelt the end of Essendon's brief flurry, with the Cats doing as they pleased thereafter.

"It's obviously demoralising for the opposition when you get chances in your forward 50 and don't take them, and we were taking the ball forward and capitalising," Cats coach Chris Scott said after the game.

Star underage basketballer Michael Luxford was a late inclusion for his first game, although the new Cat's first kick was memorable for the wrong reasons when it sailed out on the full in a rare example of wastefulness.

Both teams had injury concerns, with under pressure Bombers ruckman Tom Bellchambers subbed out at half-time for ex-Cat Paul Chapman. 

Geelong's Shane Kersten was also handed the red vest at the main break due to a hamstring injury.

ESSENDON     0.5   0.6   3.9    7.11 (53)
GEELONG       3.1   9.5   15.6  19.8 (122)

Essendon: Heppell 2, Cooney 2, Stanton, Daniher, Chapman
Geelong: Hawkins 4, Johnson 4, Motlop 4, Caddy 2, Selwood 2, Lonergan, Blicavs, Kersten

Essendon: Hooker, Hurley, Kavanagh
Geelong: Taylor, Caddy, Kelly, Lang, Enright, Rivers, Lonergan 

Essendon: Nil
Geelong: Shane Kersten (hamstring) 

Essendon: Paul Chapman replaced Tom Bellchambers at half-time
Geelong: Michael Luxford replaced Shane Kersten at half-time 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Foot, Meredith, Ryan 

Official crowd: 40,632 at Etihad Stadium

Mathew Stokes gets a handball away under pressure from ex-teammate Paul Chapman. Picture: AFL Media