IT WASN'T perfect and certainly wasn't always clean but Melbourne can't be fussy.
The Demons looked set to go down to the wire with Gold Coast on Saturday night for the second time in as many meetings before a late flurry sealed a much-needed 17-point win for Simon Goodwin's men.
DEMONS v SUNS Full match coverage and stats
Former Sun Harley Bennell capped the 12.8 (80) to 9.9 (63) result with his first AFL goal in three years after the siren before being mobbed by teammates at Sydney's Giants Stadium.
>> WATCH the match highlights in the player above
The loss was about the only spoiler to Gold Coast tyro Izak Rankine's scintillating three-goal debut, each of his finishes coming from the top shelf.
Melbourne was publicly savaged all week after poor kicking against Richmond – a common problem – stained their third defeat from four games this season.
'INCREDIBLY PROUD' Goodwin thrilled with response after Dees' tough week
Clayton Oliver (24 disposals, eight clearances) and Jack Viney (21, eight tackles) were among the targets but each responded in their own way to make strong contributions.
Oliver and Christian Petracca combined for the sealer, with the former's slick pass setting up his great mate's second goal on his 25th disposal.
First-year captain Max Gawn (15, 30 hitouts) was the dominant player on the field in comfortably accounting for opposing ruckman and skipper Jarrod Witts and giving the Demons first use all night.
In fact, the numbers were vastly in Melbourne's favour for most of the game, particularly from the second quarter, and the under-siege Demons should have had greater control.
They had a large buffer in clearances, contested possessions and inside 50s, in particular, but never led by more than 18 points.
It didn't help that Tom McDonald took no further part after copping a poke to his right eye in the opening term.
A disciplined Gold Coast defence, led by Sam Collins (10 intercept possessions) and Charlie Ballard (12), limited the damage, while the Suns were spectacular at the other end with fewer chances.
Rankine and recruit Brandon Ellis kicked five brilliant goals between them, while Lachie Weller's fancy footwork left Jake Lever looking silly after he banged one through from 50m in the first term.
Touk Miller (23, seven score involvements) was excellent for Gold Coast, which has lost two straight matches after a 3-1 start.
Rankine's remarkable welcome
We have another member in the not-so-exclusive first kick, first goal club – but few of the entries were as special as this. Izak Rankine missed all of his first season through injury but the wait was worth it. He pounced on the loose Sherrin, bounced it like a basketball and gathered in the same motion, sidestepped James Harmes, then slotted a blind snap over his head from 40m. The Suns deservedly swamped the No.3 draft pick from 2018, and Ben King let Harmes know all about it. Rankine's second kick shortly after wasn't so memorable – his defensive kick went straight to Demon Bayley Fritsch, who nailed a long goal. His fifth was pretty good, too, a soccer-like finish for his second goal, after firstly kicking the ball into his path. Rankine had three majors by night's end after sharking a Max Gawn hitout near goal.
Ex-Sun's wait ends for his next goal
Harley Bennell's rollercoaster AFL journey started nine years ago as one of Gold Coast's foundation players. He played for Fremantle before joining Melbourne this past off-season but this was the first time he'd faced the Suns, after earning a senior recall. Bennell was a solid performer on the night but his post-siren goal to cap the Dees' victory was cause for his biggest celebration. It was his 96th career major but first since 2017. Earlier, Bennell watched his close-range snap pierce the uprights, only for a score review to confirm Charlie Ballard touched the Sherrin on the way through.
Viney finds his missing composure
Clayton Oliver's late turnover last week in the middle of the ground grabbed the headlines but vice-captain Jack Viney was arguably the poster boy for Melbourne's woeful kicking inside 50. Twice Viney burnt open teammates against the Tigers with poor kicks into attack and finished with a whopping eight turnovers. He had an early opportunity to redeem himself on Saturday night, and capitalised on it. A deliberate Christian Salem dribble pass found Viney, who evaded multiple opponents, steadied and instead of blazing away he hit up Christian Petracca with his non-preferred right boot. Petracca went on to kick the Demons' first goal of the night.
MELBOURNE 2.1 6.5 8.8 12.8 (80)
GOLD COAST 3.2 5.4 8.5 9.9 (63)
Melbourne: Fritsch 2, Weideman 2, Petracca 2, Harmes, Salem, Hibberd, Melksham, Hannan, Bennell
Gold Coast: Rankine 3, Ellis 2, Weller, King, Fiorini, Ainsworth
Melbourne: Gawn, Viney, Petracca, Oliver, Hannan, May, Langdon
Gold Coast: Miller, Rankine, Ballard, Collins, Greenwood, Lukosius
Melbourne: McDonald (right eye)
Gold Coast: Holman (ribs)