GEELONG has registered the percentage-boosting win it set out to achieve against Essendon, but the rewards could have been far greater in the Cats' 66-point victory at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With the race for the top four on in earnest, the fifth-placed Cats were desperate to close the gap on fourth-placed Greater Western Sydney, which held the advantage with a percentage of 140.2.
By restricting the Bombers to just four goals for the game, the Cats moved up exactly four percent and within three percent of the Giants with three games remaining.
Five talking points: Geelong v Essendon
There are two ways of boosting percentage – score heavily yourself or restrict the opposition from hitting the scoreboard.
The way the game flowed saw the Cats end up with the latter option in their 15.10 (100) to 4.10 (34) win.
Geelong kept Essendon goalless until the second-minute mark of the third term, holding the Bombers to four behinds in the opening half - their equal-lowest score to half-time for the season (round eight v North Melbourne).
Veteran Corey Enright had the ball on a string, racking up 25 disposals to half-time before petering out to finish with 29 for the game.
GAMEBREAKER: Enright's first-half heroics
Patrick Dangerfield again topped the stats sheet, shaking off a sluggish start to collect 25 of his 29 disposals after quarter-time, while the Bombers consistently struggled to get past Harry Taylor (23 disposals and 13 marks) who was resolute in defence.
Playing to cement their spots in the Geelong side, Sam Menegola (24 disposals) and Josh Cowan (20 touches and two goals) were among the Cats' best, while Cameron Guthrie (29 disposals and a goal) shifted back to defence with great effect.
Despite managing to keep their opposition in check, the Cats did not take full toll on the scoreboard as they missed a number of gettable opportunities – underlined by a run of five consecutive behinds in the third quarter.
Cats coach Chris Scott said it was disappointing to see his side fail to capitalise on their chances.
"We didn't play that well, I didn't think. Both sides were pretty inaccurate in front of goal and it was one of those days where it almost seemed contagious," Scott said.
"We worked pretty hard to generate some chances, especially in that third quarter, and we didn't take them."
Although they would have been pleased to see key recruit Scott Selwood play his first game for the club, keeping star Bomber David Zaharakis to 17 disposals in a run-with role, and for Josh Caddy to successfully return from a knee injury that had kept him out since round 13.
For the Bombers, Martin Gleeson stood up brilliantly under an avalanche of inside 50 entries (58-37), as the youngster took 14 marks to complement his 23 disposals.
Zach Merrett (25 disposals), former Cat James Kelly (25) and Darcy Parish (24) gave their all in another losing cause for the Bombers.
"I don't think it was a walk in the park for them,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said.
“We had our opportunities. In that last quarter we matched them, I thought, other than the class to finish off. But we certainly got the ball forward and had shots at goal."
"We had a couple of shots at goal that we missed and they went down and kicked theirs which blew the scoreline out probably more than I thought it deserved at that point. But the fact that we kept running hard and taking the game on in that last quarter, I was really proud of."
To make matters worse for Essendon, it lost skipper Brendon Goddard before quarter-time after he injured his groin. Goddard was fuming as he left the field and punched the side of the interchange tunnel as he sat out the rest of the match.
Geelong: Daniel Menzel had a tight groin and, given his injury history, the Cats were not prepared to take any chances, with the forward not taking any part in the second half. Harry Taylor was attended to in the last minutes of the game after being hit hard in the back by a leaping Joe Daniher, but was walking around fine in the rooms after the game.
Essendon: The Bombers lost skipper Brendon Goddard before quarter-time after he injured his groin. Courtenay Dempsey also received a lot of treatment on his left hamstring in the opening term but returned to the field of play.
Essendon returns to Etihad Stadium next Sunday for a meeting against Gold Coast. The Cats have another trip up the highway, this time facing off against Richmond at the MCG in a week's time.
GEELONG 3.2 7.4 11.10 15.10 (100)
ESSENDON 0.3 0.4 3.4 4.10 (34)
Geelong: Hawkins 3, Caddy 2, Cowan 2, Cockatoo 2, Dangerfield, Duncan, Guthrie, Menegola, Motlop, Stanley
Essendon: Daniher, Francis, Grimley, McKenna
Geelong: Taylor, Enright, Dangerfield, Menegola, Cowan, Guthrie
Essendon: Gleeson, Kelly, Z.Merrett, Parish, McKenna
Geelong: Menzel (Groin tightness), Taylor (back)
Essendon: Goddard (groin)
Umpires: Fisher, Hosking, McInerney
Official crowd: 29,254 at Etihad Stadium