MELBOURNE captain Max Gawn has driven the Demons into their first Grand Final in 21 years with an iconic finals performance, kicking five goals to spearhead a ruthless 83-point win against Geelong at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
The inspirational leader, who has lived through some of the Demons' toughest years, kicked four goals in the third quarter to seal the 19.11 (125) to 6.6 (42) win on a magical night for the red and blue.
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The Demons are now one win away from ending their 57-year premiership drought and will meet either Port Adelaide or the Western Bulldogs at Optus Stadium in a fortnight, entering the clash with unrivalled form.
Tough, unrelenting and clinical, the Demons put their more experienced opponents to the sword in the midfield, where Christian Petracca (32 disposals, eight clearances and a goal), Jack Viney (34 and nine) and Clayton Oliver (27 and seven) refused to give an inch.
The trio combined for 45 contested possessions and took turns bursting out of the centre in the critical third quarter and setting up Gawn as the Demons booted eight unanswered goals.
The 29-year-old converted on the run from outside 50m, slotted set shots, and then snapped a magnificent goal out of the ruck as the Demons took a 78-point lead into the last quarter, knowing they were home.
They will now sweat on the fitness of star defender Steven May, who experienced hamstring tightness in the first half that he was able to play through before being substituted in the third term.
While Geelong's bold recruiting of experienced players has been critical to their sustained period of success, the veteran Cats could not match the speed and power of their younger opponents.
The manner of their defeat with an ageing list leaves significant doubts around their ability to climb the mountain again in 2022, having fielded 11 players aged 30 or over.
It was the Cats' heaviest finals defeat since 1969 and their biggest loss under Chris Scott since 2014, bowing out with a single September win this season after a top-four finish.
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Champion midfielder Patrick Dangerfield never gave up and led the Cats with 29 disposals and a game-high 10 clearances, while wingman Isaac Smith (26) and captain Joel Selwood (24 and eight clearances) battled hard.
The Cats had too many passengers, however, with star recruit Jeremy Cameron kicking two goals from just four disposals and having little impact. Fellow forward Gary Rohan had one disposal.
The Demons, in front of a pro-Melbourne crowd of 58,599, simply owned the venue at which they had lost the 2018 preliminary final against West Coast by 66 points.
And symbolically, they reached the high point of their recent history with a win against the club that had sent them to their lowest ebb in 2011, with a 186-point defeat.
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The Demons went goalless in the first half of their 2018 preliminary final nightmare, but they got their work done early on Friday night, booting five of the first six goals to race to a 27-point lead at the first change.
Their ferocious pressure, led in the midfield by Petracca and Oliver, had the Cats rattled and the game opened up for the Demons once they forced the turnover, going inside 50 17 times to 12.
The Demons didn't let up in the second, with small forwards Tom Sparrow and Kysaiah Pickett the dangermen, while Gawn ignited the pro-Melbourne crowd with a terrific snap after playing on inside 50.
Their lead grew to a game-high 41 points before the Cats kicked back-to-back goals for the first time, with Hawkins and Smith converting set shots to give their team the faint hope of a comeback.
It took only five minutes in the third quarter, however, for the Demons to snuff that out as Gawn burst forward to kick the memorable 55m goal that had the Dees home.
MELBOURNE 5.3 9.6 17.8 19.11 (125)
GEELONG 1.0 5.1 5.2 6.6 (42)
Melbourne: Gawn 5, Pickett 3, Spargo 2, Brown 2, Fritsch 2, Petracca, Harmes, Neal-Bullen, McDonald, Sparrow
Geelong: Cameron 2, Hawkins, Stanley, Miers, Smith
Melbourne: Gawn, Petracca, Oliver, Viney, Salem, Pickett, Brown
Geelong: Dangerfield, Smith, Selwood
Melbourne: May (hamstring)
Geelong: Rohan (hamstring)
Melbourne: James Jordon (replaced Steven May)
Geelong: Shaun Higgins (replaced Gary Rohan)
Crowd: 58,599 at Optus Stadium