MELBOURNE's grand old flag is finally flying high again.
The Demons are through to their first preliminary final in 18 long years after Simon Goodwin's talented young team survived a last-quarter scare to record a convincing 33-point win that sent a raucously pro-Melbourne crowd of 90,152 into delirium at the MCG on Friday night.
Melbourne had looked safe when it took a commanding 32-point lead into the final break, having kicked the final three goals of the third term to snuff out a mini-Hawks revival.
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But Hawthorn was not done. Goals to Isaac Smith and Jack Gunston cut the deficit to 20 just four minutes into the final term and when Hawthorn skipper Jarryd Roughead kicked truly from 35m out seven minutes later the Demons' lead was just 12 points.
It was enough to quieten the Demons faithful, who had seen their team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory several times in 2018.
But they soon found their voice again when, from the next centre clearance, Jake Melksham kicked a brilliant left-foot goal from 50m and, three minutes later, Tom McDonald capped a brilliant night with a contested mark over James Frawley and a converted 35m set shot.
And when Melksham goaled again five minutes later to restore the Demons' advantage to 32 points, Melbourne fans could exhale and savour the final 10 minutes of a glorious 16.8 (104) to 10.11 (71) triumph.
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McDonald was outstanding for the Demons with a game-high four goals, while co-captain Jack Viney (27 possessions, seven clearances and seven inside 50s) led from the front in his second game back from a long-term foot injury.
Christian Petracca (22 possessions and seven inside 50s) bounced back from a quiet game in Melbourne's elimination final victory over Geelong, while Michael Hibberd (20 possessions and eight rebound 50s) led Melbourne's counter-attack from half-back and Neville Jetta kept Hawthorn dangerman Luke Breust goalless.
Before Friday night's game, Melbourne had lost 15 of its previous 16 games against Hawthorn, its sole win coming in round 20, 2016.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin said his team had struggled to get the game on its terms in the first half, but had regrouped well after the main break.
"I thought Hawthorn had control of the game in a lot of ways, so we had to re-establish ourselves a little bit after half-time, but I thought our response after half-time was exceptional," Goodwin said.
WHO WAS BEST Every Demon rated out of 10
"Our ability to win the clearance and get our contested numbers back the way we think they should be for our footy club, was outstanding.
"We got a lot of different looks from Hawthorn tonight and had to make some changes on the run, but when they got within 12 points – clearly there are some things we've improved on as a team in those types of situations – so (being able to respond) was pleasing as well."
In losing, the Hawks became the seventh top-four team since 2000 to bow out of the finals in straight sets.
Hawthorn suffered the same fate in its previous finals appearance, 2016, and have now lost four finals in a row, their most recent post-season win coming in the 2015 Grand Final.
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Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said his team had its chances but had lacked polish in the absence of injured trio Grant Birchall, Jaeger O'Meara and Ben Stratton, and retired star Cyril Rioli.
"We had our chances throughout the course of the night, we just wasted chances at crucial patches," Clarkson said.
"We just lacked the polish and composure at key points in the game and Melbourne are a good side, they have been for a fair period of time and they're playing some of their best footy right now.
WHO WAS WORST Every Hawk rated out of 10
"We probably played our best patch of footy from about round 18 through round 21.
"We just weren't playing at our best when we needed to be. We played two good opponents (in the finals) and they didn't allow us to play in the manner that we would like to play."
Gunston did all he could to extend the Hawks' season, kick-starting fightbacks in the third and fourth quarters, but would rue his unusually inaccurate 3.5 return in front of goal.
Tom Mitchell (24 possessions, eight clearances and 10 tackles) battled a sore shoulder and a tight tag from James Harmes but was still influential, and Liam Shiels restricted Clayton Oliver's influence while finishing with 23 possessions of his own.
Daniel Howe also did well to hold Angus Brayshaw to just 12 possessions, and David Mirra (19 possessions and 10 marks) was solid in defence.
The Hawks drew first blood less than two minutes into the game when Ryan Schoenmakers, back after missing the opening week of the finals with Achilles tendon soreness, outmuscled Sam Frost to mark close to goal and converted his set shot.
The Demons soon hit back, kicking the next two goals. Both came through Tom McDonald, the first set up by a well-weighted Mitch Hannan kick that hit him 25m from goal, the second a goalsquare gift handed to him by Charlie Spargo.
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It meant the Demons led by six points at the 16-minute mark in a game where both defences were on top.
With both teams stationing numbers behind the ball in their defensive 50s, goals were hard to come by as inside 50 entries were intercepted time and time again.
Young Hawk James Worpel levelled the scores with a long bomb at the 23-minute mark, only for Petracca to answer two minutes later with a superb running shot from 35m.
Gunston ensured the scores were tied at the first break when he pinged Neville Jetta in a tackle in the dying minutes and coolly converted from 40m out.
Max Gawn goaled for Melbourne inside the opening minute of the second term after marking strongly 35m out.
The Hawks had the better of general play for the remainder of the quarter, winning the inside 50 count 17-7 and the clearances 9-6.
However, they didn't take their chances in front of goal, managing just six behinds for the term, including missed set shots by usual deadeyes Paul Puopolo and Gunston (two).
In contrast, the Demons were clinical in front of goal, with Sam Weideman at the eight-minute mark, and Brayshaw in the dying minutes, nailing set shots from 45m.
Melbourne's 3.1 return for the term to Hawthorn’s 0.6 sent it to the main break with a handy 13-point lead.
The Hawks would be left to rue those missed opportunities in a second half when they got close several times but could never quite bridge the gap.
Hawthorn: Tom Mitchell went into the rooms midway through the first quarter after injuring his shoulder in a collision with Neville Jetta. He returned to the ground soon after, but a few minutes later returned to the rooms with his shoulder clearly bothering him. He started on the ground at the start of the second term and played out the match. Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said after the match the midfielder was "fine". "He copped a stinger in the shoulder," Clarkson said.
Melbourne: Angus Brayshaw came from the ground early in the final term after copping an accidental knee to the neck from Shaun Burgoyne, but returned to finish the match. Demons coach Simon Goodwin said after the game Brayshaw had pulled up well and would be fine to play in the preliminary final.
The Demons will play West Coast in a preliminary final next Saturday at Optus Stadium, while the Hawks' season is over.
HAWTHORN 3.1 3.7 6.9 10.11 (71)
MELBOURNE 3.1 6.2 12.5 16.8 (104)
Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Schoenmakers 2, Roughead 2, Worpel, Puopolo, Smith
Melbourne: T. McDonald 4, Weideman 2, Brayshaw 2, Melksham 2, Spargo 2, Petracca, Gawn, Neal-Bullen, Hannan
Hawthorn: Gunston, Mirra, Howe, Shiels, Mitchell, Henderson
Melbourne: Viney, T.McDonald, Petracca, Jetta, Hibberd, Oliver
Hawthorn: Mitchell (AC joint), Puopolo (hamstring)
Umpires: Rosebury, Stevic, Nicholls
Official crowd: 90,152 at the MCG