AN EIGHT-goal opening-quarter avalanche has propelled the Western Bulldogs to a 47-point demolition of Fremantle and within percentage of a top-eight spot.
The match was effectively over as a contest before half-time – when the Dogs led by 43 points – and they eventually cruised to a 16.17 (113) to 9.12 (66) triumph at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
DOGS DESTROY DOCKERS Full match coverage and stats
It was a strong response from Luke Beveridge's men after last week's disappointing loss to St Kilda with their finals hopes on the line.
They have not qualified for the post-season since their historic second club premiership in 2016 but suddenly look a realistic chance of doing so, with eighth-placed Adelaide seriously wobbling.
The victory provided some solace for the Bulldogs, who watched Dale Morris reinjure his left knee in the opening term, leave the field, then bravely return until another incident early in the third quarter ended his day.
Morris was playing the 253rd match of his career but his first this season after partially tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in March.
The flag-winning defender opted not to undergo surgery, preferring to use alternative recovery methods, including drinking a litre of bone broth a day.
Morris, 36, spent a month proving his fitness and regaining touch in the VFL before earning a senior call-up but the severity of this latest setback could determine his playing future.
His worth to the Dogs was evidenced early with a trademark pair of gut-busting efforts within seconds of one another to help deny the Dockers a goal.
However, they were far too good for Fremantle even without Morris being at full capacity and playing barely half a game.
Jack Macrae (38 disposals, eight clearances) and Marcus Bontempelli (28, two goals) racked up 21 touches and six clearances between them to quarter-time, while two of the club's Baileys – Dale and Smith – slotted two goals apiece.
Even still, it looked like it was going to be a competitive afternoon as time ticked towards 30 minutes in the opening term.
Ex-Tiger Reece Conca buried Easton Wood in a tackle and kicked the Dockers' fourth major to slash the margin to six points, only for the Bulldogs to rattle on three quick goals before the first break.
It was a body blow Freo never recovered from.
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The visitors, perhaps, paid for leaving returning skipper Nat Fyfe (33, five inside 50s) in attack for much of the quarter before unleashing him in the middle from the start of the second term.
Dale proved the game-breaker, a week after kicking five majors in his return to the senior side against the Saints.
He firstly almost set up a Dogs goal with a great tackle on Nathan Wilson, before two perfectly timed leads within about 90 seconds of each other delivered his third and fourth goals.
Dale probably should have finished the day with six majors, but was still a pivotal factor in the result despite not adding further to his individual tally.
By then, the difference was 30 points and it reached a game-high 59 midway through the third term before some belated Dockers resistance arrived.
In between, there was a great moment for first-gamer Rhylee West – son of seven-time Bulldogs club champion Scott – who swooped on a loose ball and snapped a brilliant goal in the second quarter.
It still wasn't the best of the day's highlights, with Aaron Naughton, whose chip off the ground from next to the behind post in the first minute of the second half went through for a remarkable goal.
They crushed Fremantle in contested possession (139-116), won 82 more disposals in total and had 15 extra inside 50s, as well as taking the honours in the clearances (35-32) to set up their outside game.
Tellingly, the Bulldogs also made the most of their set shots, a rarity this year.
Second-year midfielder Andrew Brayshaw was a standout Docker from the start and finished with 26 disposals and three goals, while Bradley Hill and Connor Blakely had 22 possessions each.
Freo's ploy of selecting Aaron Sandilands, Sean Darcy and Rory Lobb in the same team ensured it comfortably won the hit-outs, but they were unable to make a major impact other than the odd Lobb mark.
Western Bulldogs: Dale Morris had a dramatic start to his first game of the year, leaving the ground at the 20-minute mark of the opening quarter after reinjuring his left knee. He went straight to the rooms, reappeared on the boundary line for some run-throughs, then went back in again before returning to the field with heavy strapping. However, Morris hobbled from the ground for good early in the third term after trying to change direction.
Fremantle: Luke Ryan came from the field with a right hamstring issue in the third quarter, not long after Michael Walters went off after wearing a reckless Ed Richards strike to his throat.
Only percentage is holding the Bulldogs out of the top eight, but they face a mighty challenge next Sunday against Brisbane at the Gabba. Fremantle probably can't afford to lose another match and hosts top side Geelong at Optus Stadium on Saturday.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 8.2 12.6 14.11 16.17 (113)
FREMANTLE 4.3 5.5 7.9 9.12 (66)
Western Bulldogs: Dale 4, Lloyd 3, Smith 2, Bontempelli 2, Lipinski, Hunter, West, Naughton, Johannisen
Fremantle: Brayshaw 3, Tucker 2, Walters, Schulz, Conca, Lobb
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Bontempelli, Dale, Daniel, Hunter, Johannisen
Fremantle: Brayshaw, Fyfe, B. Hill, Mundy, Walters, Lobb
Western Bulldogs: Morris (knee)
Fremantle: Ryan (hamstring)
Umpires: Donlon, Meredith, Dore
Official crowd: 21,181 at Marvel Stadium