ESSENDON still has work to do to become a serious top-eight contender, but coach John Worsfold says the Bombers' belief that they can compete with the AFL's best sides is growing after watching his outfit topple West Coast.
The Dons stormed the Eagles' almost impregnable fortress – where they had only lost once in seven games – and blitzed the home side with a stunning six-goal-to-nil opening term.
West Coast fought back but inaccuracy proved costly and Essendon came away with a fourth win from five games – including three road triumphs – by 28 points.
The Bombers will almost certainly be sitting two wins outside the eight after round 14, but their finals hopes remain after improving to a 6-7 record.
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"Our chances of making the eight are less than the teams already in the eight. They have to do less to make it than we do," a realistic Worsfold said post-match.
"But they have got to do it, and we've got to do our part, which is keep winning games. I'm not into the odds of all that, but we're going to have a crack at improving our footy.
"We want to become a great team and I've said that before this year. We want to become a team that is capable of winning the premiership and we still have a lot to learn and work on.
"Belief is pretty strong in that when we are playing our best footy, we can compete with the best teams in the comp."
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The Bombers were rampant early against West Coast, playing with dash and dare and converting their chances into a match-defining 37-point lead at quarter-time.
Big-name recruits Jake Stringer (three goals), Devon Smith (23 disposals, three goals) and running backman Adam Saad (26 possessions) were outstanding, especially early, and Worsfold is seeing his side's chemistry improve by the week.
The Bombers coach was under pressure to keep his job when Essendon slipped to 2-6 but has turned the club around.
"I would have hoped that (chemistry) was going to be an area of continued improvement throughout the year," he said.
"Not only what those guys are understanding about the way we want to play and what they bring to the team, but everyone getting to know each other better.
"We are seeing a lot of improvement across the board - even our young midfielders like (Andrew) McGrath and (Matt) Guelfi and playing their roles.
"They are really having a strong impact on the team. They're still learning about how they are playing alongside some of those more senior mids."
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Stringer was quiet after his three-goal burst, with Worsfold revealing the ex-Dogs star was battling a sore leg and was "hindered fairly badly".
Fifth-gamer Mason Redman was on crutches after the match with an ankle problem, although Worsfold was unsure of the severity of his injury.
The Bombers return home to take on Etihad Stadium co-tenant North Melbourne next round and face finals contender Collingwood after that.
With Gold Coast and Fremantle to finish the month, Essendon can still dream of playing finals, despite probably needing at least six more wins from the last nine games.
"We've made things pretty tough through a scratchy period and early in the season, but we're building better form, better chemistry," Worsfold said.
"So overall we just look forward to another massive game against the Kangaroos next week."