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Match report: Dees leave it late to eclipse Suns

Highlights: Melbourne v Gold Coast The Demons and Suns clash in round 19
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Jack Watts of the Demons celebrates a goal during the 2016 AFL Round 19 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Gold Coast Suns at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 31, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)
Jack Watts was the star at both ends at the finish for the Demons

JACK Watts stepped up to be the hero as Melbourne overcame an error-riddled performance and snatched a dramatic two-point win over a gallant Gold Coast at the MCG on Sunday.

The Dees won 9.12 (66) to 9.10 (64) amid frantic scenes in the dying stages.

With two minutes left on the clock and his team down by four points after surrendering a 14-point lead in the final term, Watts coolly went back and slotted a difficult set shot from 45m near the boundary line for the go-ahead goal.

Just moments later, the much-maligned former No.1 draft pick worked deep into defence and took what should have been the match-saving mark in the goalsquare.

But after Watts passed the ball to the pocket, Bernie Vince turned a kick straight over to Suns star Tom Lynch 45m out on the boundary.

In a gripping ending, the final siren sounded as Lynch steadied himself for the potentially match-winning shot and his huge bomb appeared on target all the way before just falling short next to the goal post.

"It was a very difficult kick. It was a pretty good shot actually, he did pretty well," coach Rodney Eade said post-match.

"It was a tough angle and a long distance out. I didn't expect him to kick it, but he gave it a good shake."

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Suns who, despite having their first-choice midfield decimated, almost overran the home side in a brave performance.

But the Dees desperately clung on to the victory as fans erupted when Lynch's kick fell short.

"I thought it was a pretty even game all day," Demons coach Paul Roos said.

"Obviously our turnovers were a bit worse than theirs. I mean, you get out of jail when you kick a goal like that (Watts'), but there was still two and a half minutes to go.

"But if you look at the overall game it was an even contest and we happened to be in front at the end, so it was very pleasing."

Although it was largely forgettable and frustrating to watch, the Dees' triumph was a significant milestone for the rebuilding club.

Their eighth win ensured Paul Roos will leave after leading his team to an improved win-loss record in each of his three seasons steering Melbourne's overhaul.

It is the first time since 2011 the Demons have won eight games and, with their slim finals hopes still alive, they can shoot for their best campaign since notching 14 wins in 2006.

However, Melbourne supporters and Roos will want to see more signs of improvement after a lacklustre affair on Sunday.

In a game the Dees (8-10) were expected to win, enough to raise red flags in the past, the home side started slowly a week after a shattering loss to West Coast in Perth.

Gold Coast's record at the MCG was an uninspiring 2-8, but both wins had come against Melbourne and Eade's understrength side appeared confident of turning the tables from the outset.

The Demons fumbled and bumbled their way through the opening term and trailed 21-9 at the first change.

But after a bake from Paul Roos at the break, Melbourne lifted with a five-goals-to-two second quarter to lead by 12 points at half-time.

A sickening collision between Kade Kolodjashnij and James Harmes in the middle of the MCG, which saw Harmes physically ill as he was helped from the field, showed the commitment of both sides in the hotly-contested third term.

The Dees were expected to flick through the gears to victory after Aaron vandenBerg goaled after the three-quarter time siren to extend their lead to eight points, but the Suns had other ideas.

Brandon Matera soccered a poacher's goal and Jarrad Grant's miraculous dribbling effort put the visitors up by four points, and the Suns had all the running – until Watts exerted himself in the dying stages.

Dom Tyson (31 disposals) did a power of work in Melbourne's midfield, with support from Harmes (23), Vince (21) and Aaron vandenBerg (18, three goals), while defender Oscar McDonald's intercept marking was a feature.

Max Gawn improved his All Australian claims in the ruck with 60 hit-outs and the Dees got on top at the clearances 37-25.

Lynch (20 disposals, two goals) was a colossus for the Suns and caused all sorts of headaches for Tom McDonald in his 100th game.

Matt Rosa (23 touches), Touk Miller (21), Jarrod Harbrow (18) and Matt Shaw (18) almost drove Gold Coast to a confidence-building victory.

Nonetheless, it was a much-improved effort from when Gold Coast (6-12) was thumped by 73 points at home by Melbourne in round seven.

Key forward Jesse Hogan slammed into the behind post taking a sliding mark in the second term and got up hobbling with a sore left knee. He struggled with it throughout the match and Roos said the young gun was doubtful to face Hawthorn coming off a six-day break. Harmes had to be helped from the ground in the third term after a heavy collision caused him to be physically ill, but he courageously came back on shortly after.
Gold Coast: Matt Shaw ankle heavily strapped in first quarter before returning to be one of the Suns' best players.

The Dees face Hawthorn, who they pushed to three goals in round 11, and will attempt to break a 13-game losing streak against the reigning premier next Saturday. The Suns return home for a daunting battle against Greater Western Sydney, which has won the past three clashes between the expansion clubs.

MELBOURNE     1.3   6.6   7.10   9.12 (66)
GOLD COAST     3.3   4.6   6.8     9.10 (64)

vandenBerg 3, Watts 3, Dawes, Kent, Petracca
Gold Coast: Lynch 2, Garlett 2, Matera 2, Malceski, Shaw, Grant

Tyson, Watts, Harmes, vandenBerg, O.McDonald, Gawn
Gold Coast: Miller, Rosa, Lynch, Harbrow, Shaw 

Hogan (left knee)
Gold Coast: Shaw (left ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Fisher, Margetts, Foote

Official crowd: 20,627 at MCG