GREATER Western Sydney has hung on in a two-point thriller over Essendon to claim its fourth victory in the past five matches.
The brave Bombers kicked five of the first six goals in the final term and had the momentum until Jacob Hopper looked to have kicked the sealer for the Giants when he pushed the margin back out to eight points with 25 seconds remaining.
GIANTS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
But the Bombers weren't done with yet, as they won the ball from the centre bounce and got it forward for Kyle Langford to snap truly with four seconds left on the clock.
The Bombers midfield won the clearance again at the final bounce, but the siren sounded as the ball was in the air and heading inside 50, leaving the Giants to claim the 16.11 (107) to 16.9 (105) victory.
The loss also consigned the Bombers to their third loss by under a goal so far this season.
Cale Hooker could've been awarded a free kick inside 50 before what turned out to be the sealer from Hopper when the Bombers tall went to mark on the lead and was nudged under the ball.
But the umpire called play on and Hooker missed out on having a shot to put his team in front.
The Giants led for all but the first 90 seconds of the match at Giants Stadium, and at times looked set to run away with the game especially when they got out to a 31-point lead in the first term.
Giants stand-in skipper Toby Greene again led from the front, kicking two goals for the match and having plenty of impact outside the forward 50 as he collected 21 disposals.
Tim Taranto (29 touches, one goal, eight tackles) and Josh Kelly (30 and two) stood up in the final term to help get the Giants over the line, Kelly's goal early in the quarter steadying his team as the Bombers had the momentum.
Jeremey Finlayson kicked three goals for the Giants but will be sweating on a report for his late and high hit on Zach Merrett in the first quarter.
Merrett, in his 150th game in red and black, was able to play out the match and was one of the best on ground as he picked up 37 touches (10 contested) and delivered 13 inside 50s. Darcy Parish continued his scintillating form since moving into the midfield, gathering 35 disposals (14 contested).
Jake Stringer started brightly, with four early touches, until he was seen grabbing at his leg in the first term. Stringer spent the next two quarters stationed deep in the Bombers' forward line but had little impact on the game and was subbed out for Matt Guelfi late in the third term.
With Stringer struggling and Coleman medal contender Hooker held relatively quiet, it was left to Langford (three goals), Peter Wright and Harry Jones (both two goals) to stand up in the Bombers' forward 50.
Jones was especially important in the final term when his two goals kept his team in the game but it wasn’t quite enough for the Bombers.
Show Merrett the money
Zach Merrett ran out for his 150th game for Essendon - quicker than all but six players in the club's history - but will be a free agent at season's end. The two-time Crichton medallist and 2017 All-Australian is having another outstanding season, averaging the sixth-most touches in the competition (30), and again showed why the Bombers should throw whatever he wants to encourage him to commit to the club. The left-footer gathered 37 disposals (10 contested), 13 inside 50s and four score assists to again prove critical to his team's efforts, and at 25 is the right age to still be peaking as these Baby Bombers mature.
Finlayson's finances could take a hit
The Giants seemed intent on giving milestone man Zach Merrett some extra attention, but tall forward Jeremy Finlayson took it too far and was reported for a crude high hit on the Bombers midfielder in the first term. Merrett gathered the ball in space across half-back and released the ball to switch the play, as Finlayson came in late with a raised forearm. Finlayson might be fortunate that his stray arm struck Merrett's shoulder before sliding up towards his head, and should be especially grateful that Merrett was able to get up and play out the game.
Hat-trick of heart-stoppers
These evenly matched teams have now played three games in a row to be decided by under a goal. The Giants stormed to a 31-point lead then managed to hang on this time, but last year it was the Bombers that were the better team early before allowing the Giants back in to kick six in a row and claim the lead late in the game. A last-minute goal by Adam Saad wasn't enough to save the game. In 2019 it was Essendon's turn to snatch a last-minute victory, with Cale Hooker goaling with 30 seconds left to break the deadlock. Hooker might've been the hero again this time, but the umpire chose not to award a free kick to give him the chance to put the Bombers in front with a bit over a minute left on the clock.
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 6.2 7.4 14.8 16.11 (107)
ESSENDON 2.2 5.7 10.7 16.9 (105)
Greater Western Sydney: Finlayson 3, Sproule 2, Bruhn 2, Greene 2, Kelly 2, Himmelberg, Lloyd, Taranto, Hopper, Hill
Essendon: Langford 3, Wright 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Jones 2, Snelling 2, Hooker, Perkins, Cox, Redman, Guelfi
Greater Western Sydney: Greene, Taranto, Kelly, Perryman, Green, Ward
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Hind, Phillips, Langford, Heppell
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Essendon: Stringer (hamstring)
Greater Western Sydney: Stone (unused)
Essendon: Guelfi (replaced Stringer)
Crowd: 8.526 at Giants Stadium