IT WAS tight, it was dour and quite frankly, it was painful to watch at times, but Essendon broke a three-match losing streak with a much-needed seven-point victory over Fremantle to keep its finals hopes alive.
The game was an ugly affair at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night but when prized recruit Dylan Shiel, who has copped plenty of criticism this year for his inaccuracy by foot, slotted a crucial goal minutes into the final term, it was hard to see the Dockers hitting the front from that point.
He proved to be huge in the last quarter, snapping another through to help the Bombers overcome Freo 8.12 (60) to 7.11 (53).
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It was ironic Shiel's clean finishing proved so critical, considering he came into the clash with 0.7 for the season.
The finish was nervy for Essendon though. Michael Walters and Jesse Hogan both converted truly after winning frees directly in front of goal to give Fremantle a late sniff, despite trailing by 26 points midway through the fourth term.
Then Brandon Matera won a free of his own and put it through to bring the margin back to eight points.
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Hogan had another chance with just over a minute left but his snap missed, and that proved costly.
Captain Dyson Heppell and Kyle Langford fought hard in the guts while Zach Merrett, David Zaharakis and Darcy Parish won their fair share of the ball.
However uninspiring the Bombers might have been, at 4-5 hope remains of a top-eight finish.
For a team capable of playing some of the most exhilarating football in the competition, Essendon can look average, and this was one of those performances.
The Bombers were willing to crack in and compete but their skill errors and profligacy in front of goal made for a dull game.
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Not that Freo was any better. It's been hard to grasp where it sits in the pecking order, having looked sublime in successful outings against North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney but disappointing last week against Richmond, and not being any better against the Dons.
Scoring proved to be an issue once again, failing to reach 60 points for the fourth time in 2019.
In the clinches, Nat Fyfe was immense, finishing with 24 disposals and a mammoth 22 contested possessions, and the evergreen David Mundy continued what has been another fine campaign.
The 33-year-old injected some much-needed class into the contest when he sharked a tap from the boundary throw-in and put it through in the third term.
Unsurprisingly, it was Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti who brought the crowd out of its slumber in the second quarter, first because of a snapped goal on the run and then by marking against Luke Ryan and nailing his shot.
Spearhead Joe Daniher was also involved in that patch with a fantastic mark but he and Josh Begley were wasteful, both finishing with 0.4.
Essendon: Nothing to report here.
Fremantle: Early on, defender Joel Hamling went to the bench with blood streaming down his head, but he came back out soon enough.
Next Saturday night will be the Dreamtime at the 'G blockbuster between traditional rivals Essendon and Richmond. Fremantle will look to break a three-game losing streak when it's back home to take on the 6-3 Brisbane in the Sunday twilight slot.
ESSENDON 1.3 3.7 5.11 8.12 (60)
FREMANTLE 2.3 3.5 4.9 7.11 (53)
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Shiel 2, Zaharakis, Stringer, Francis
Fremantle: Matera 2, Langdon, Tucker, Mundy, Walters, Hogan
Essendon: Heppell, Langford, Shiel, Hooker, Merrett, McDonald-Tipungwuti
Fremantle: Fyfe, Mundy, Blakely, Hill, Conca
Umpires: Stevic, Nicholls, Whetton
Official crowd: 29,176 at Marvel Stadium