WILL it be sixth time lucky?
Essendon will enter this week's elimination final with the Western Bulldogs aiming to break a 17-year, 6203-day drought without a finals victory.
In between that elimination final win over Melbourne in 2004 and this Sunday's trip to Tasmania, the Bombers have lost five elimination finals. The club has finished eighth in three of those attempts (2009, 2011, 2019) and seventh twice (2014, 2017) and will be attempting to snap the run from eighth again this year.
Here's how it has played out in the past five elimination finals and why the Bombers will be hoping history doesn't repeat.
West Coast 17.14 (116) def Essendon 9.7 (61) at Optus Stadium
This one was over by quarter-time after the Eagles booted six goals to three in the opening quarter and held a 21-point lead at the first break. There was no coming back for the Bombers from there while away from home against the reigning premiers. The Bombers limped into the finals after losing three of their last four games of the home and away season and were no match for West Coast's midfield, led by returning ruckman Nic Naitanui who was central to the win. Important key defender Michael Hurley braved a serious shoulder injury to play out the clash.
Sydney 19.7 (121) def Essendon 8.8 (56) at the SCG
There was about three minutes of joy for Essendon fans in this game after Joe Daniher's big mark and early goal. But the fun ended there as Lance Franklin again ran amok against the Bombers, booting four goals. With a mass of Bombers returning from their 12-month bans for the supplements saga, coach John Worsfold steered the club back into the finals after their 2016 wooden spoon season. But it was an underwhelming end to the season, with champion midfielder and former skipper Jobe Watson playing his final game in the defeat.
North Melbourne 14.9 (93) def Essendon 12.9 (81) at the MCG
Essendon's 10-year drought without a finals win looked set to end when the Bombers jumped to a 33-point lead in the third quarter against North Melbourne. But then a disastrous second half saw them capitulate to a stirring Kangaroos outfit which made it to that year's preliminary final. Under stand-in coach Mark Thompson while James Hird was serving his year-long ban from coaching, the Bombers were overrun, with Kangaroos big man Drew Petrie's 'Frank the Tank' goal celebration icing the North comeback.
Carlton 21.23 (149) def Essendon 13.9 (87) at the MCG
Hird's first season at the helm saw the Bombers return to the finals, only to be pummelled by arch rival Carlton. A six-goal-to-one second quarter saw the Bombers' bid for a finals upset wiped out. Dyson Heppell, that year's NAB AFL Rising Star winner after bursting onto the scene, played against the Blues in his first of four elimination finals with the club.
Adelaide 26.10 (166) def Essendon 10.10 (70) at AAMI Stadium
A night burned into the memory of many at Essendon. After winning through to the finals by beating reigning premiers Hawthorn in a spiteful round 22 clash that saw captain Matthew Lloyd suspended for the Crows contest, the Bombers didn't fire a shot against Adelaide. It remains Adelaide's biggest score in a final, with the Bombers humbled under coach Matthew Knights, who used the undersized Nathan Lovett-Murray in the ruck at stages.