THE WESTERN Bulldogs recorded their third-straight win in a low-scoring slugfest at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, in the process guaranteeing Carlton would end the season with the wooden spoon.
The Blues led by one point at quarter-time and two points at half-time, before the Bulldogs held the advantage by four points with the game delicately poised at the final change.
After no more than a seven-point margin separated the teams through the first three quarters, the Bulldogs booted four of the last five goals of the contest to kick out to a 10.6 (66) to 7.7 (49) victory.
BLUES GET THE SPOON Full match coverage and stats
A controversial free kick paid against Jed Lamb for an elbow to the small of the Marcus Bontempelli's back that led to a Lin Jong goal from a 50m penalty was the piece of ill-discipline the Blues could not afford at a critical stage of the game.
It started the ball rolling for the Bulldogs as the weight of numbers through the midfield got the better of a young Carlton side, with Josh Dunkley, Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae's influence beginning to seep through.
The Bulldogs dominated the clearances (44-19) and held a healthy buffer in the inside 50 count (47-37), but could not translate that advantage onto the scoreboard until the final term.
Dunkley again starred in a midfield role, finishing with 36 disposals and six tackles for the afternoon.
Bontempelli (36), Hunter (33) and Macrae (32) all chipped in to do their bit, with their experience and superior aerobic capacities coming to the fore late in the game.
Jason Johannisen's run and carry from defence was important with 24 touches, and Caleb Daniel's poise and control with ball in hand emphasised his much-improved second half of the season.
YOUNG GUNS SPLIT THEIR CONTEST Five talking points
Coach Luke Beveridge said his team stuck to its task late into the game.
"It was a bit of a grind, but we'll take the trifecta over three weeks," Beveridge said.
"Carlton's intensity and their endeavour was at the edge of where they would want it to be, I would have thought… but I was really happy with the way the boys perservered and did enough to give us the win."
Despite their late fadeout, Carlton fans would have been pleased with the effort their side showed and the makeup of a promising group of young talls leading their forward line.
Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay, Tom De Koning – or as Carlton put it, Prince Charles, Prince Harry and The King (as De Koning translates from Dutch into English).
They are players Carlton will bank on to hit their peak in three to four years' time and in a tough season that has produced just two wins getting a glimpse of all three in attack would have been a delight for Blues fans.
The evergreen Kade Simpson (35 disposals and eight rebound 50s) was superb for the Blues as his commitment to the contest shone through, while after a relatively slow start by his standards Patrick Cripps ended the game with 29.
Caleb Marchbank was a rock in defence with 11 marks (three contested) and the experienced Ed Curnow (28) and Dale Thomas (23) gave their all.
Unfortunately for all of the pluck Carlton showed early in the contest, Bolton's team could not maintain that intensity across four quarters as elementary skill errors began to creep in and the Bulldogs' experienced players stood up to lead their side home.
"Both sides had their moments for three-and-a-half quarters, but I thought about 10 minutes into the last quarter, their players with 100-150 games like Hunter, Macrae and Bontempelli, they stood up and spread a bit off our midfielders," Bolton said after the game.
"We turned some balls over through the middle … and they got us the other way."
Carlton: Sam Petrevski-Seton came off in the second quarter with the blood rule but quickly returned to the field. Charlie Curnow went down to the rooms at three-quarter time for some treatment and didn't reappear until four minutes into the quarter. Patrick Cripps copped a hit to the ribs late in the game but after a brief stint on the bench came back on and finished the match on the ground.
Western Bulldogs: Marcus Bontempelli battled through a back injury that had him under significant duress throughout the afternoon. The star midfielder hurt his back against North Melbourne last week. Coach Luke Beveridge said he was in doubt for next week's game against Richmond.
Carlton will finish its season with a match-up against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium next Saturday. The Bulldogs will face minor premier Richmond on Saturday.
CARLTON 2.2 4.4 5.6 7.7 (49)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.1 4.2 6.4 10.6 (66)
Carlton: C.Curnow 2, Wright, De Koning, Simpson, Dow, Silvagni
Western Bulldogs: Jong 2, McLean, Trengove, Hunter, Wallis, Gowers, Greene, Schache, Johannisen
Carlton: Simpson, Cripps, Marchbank, Lamb, Thomas, Byrne
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Bontempelli, Hunter, Johannisen, Wallis, Macrae
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Umpires: Brown, Gavine, Ryan
Official crowd: 24,143 at Etihad Stadium