LESS than three weeks after arriving on the starting line set for a deep September run, Essendon is facing a long road back after starting the season 0-3 for the first time since 1967.

The Bombers produced a much better showing than across the first fortnight against Melbourne on Friday night, but the loss still leaves them in a position only three teams have overcome to play finals since 2010.

While it wasn’t pretty, the Demons continued their perfect start to 2022 with an imperfect performance at the MCG, extending their winning streak to 10 straight dating back to round 19 last season.

DEMONS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats

The first half might have caused some at home to flick the channel to the Showdown at Adelaide Oval, but those who stuck with it were rewarded with a captivating second half played in front of the newly named Shane Warne Stand. 

After only seven goals combined were kicked in a dour opening half, both sides slotted five each in the third quarter to set the scene for a thrilling final term.

06:32 Mins
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Highlights: Melbourne v Essendon

The Demons and Bombers clash in round three

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But it wasn’t to be for Essendon, despite a dogged effort in the last quarter. Melbourne threatened to run away with the game, but the Bombers stayed within striking distance yet just beyond reach until the final siren confirmed a 29-point win for the reigning premiers.

Melbourne wingman Ed Langdon landed a killer blow under immense pressure from three Bombers covering every exit with five minutes to play, slotting a mongrel floater from deep in the pocket to put the game to bed.

00:58 Mins
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Langdon lands outrageous GOTY contender

Ed Langdon somehow manages to swing the footy like never before in this insane contender for Goal of the Year

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While Clayton Oliver, Angus Brayshaw and Langdon amassed massive numbers, the night was all about two maligned key forwards who have taken some time to leave their mark on the game.

Both were taken inside the top-10 in the draft – one at No. 8, the other at No. 9 – and both finished with four goals to steal the show.

Peter Wright continued his career resurgence since round 10 last season, adding four majors to follow up a dominant patch against Brisbane last weekend that finished with three goals and 11 marks, moving to nine for the season from three starts.

But it was Sam Weideman at the other end of the ground who grasped his first opportunity since round 13 last season, kicking 4.3 from seven marks after being a late inclusion for Ben Brown, who entered health and safety protocols on Friday.

00:36 Mins
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Weideman making his moment count

Late inclusion Sam Weideman gets off to a super start with a couple cracking of marks and a goal

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Melbourne expects Brown to be available for selection next Thursday night after the full forward was deemed a close contact on Thursday. Might be an interesting week at match committee next week.

Son of a gun gets to work
The son of Brownlow Medal winner Gavin Wanganeen sat and watched 120 minutes of football at Marvel Stadium without being activated as the medical substitute on debut last Saturday. But Tex Wanganeen only needed a minute to find the ball in his first appearance, in his second game. The use, or lack thereof, put the medical sub rule back in the spotlight this week, after St Kilda first round pick Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera wasn’t used in round one.

00:38 Mins
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Wanganeen's first sends MCG and Gavin into frenzy

Son of a gun Tex Wanganeen draws a massive reaction from the Essendon faithful and his father Gavin after this first AFL goal

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Quiet night on the 'Trac
Christian Petracca has set such high standards across the past couple of seasons that he could be forgiven for a slightly quieter night. The Norm Smith Medallist collected only nine disposals in the first half, but found a way to make an impact after half-time, finishing with 21 for the night and a goal. Petracca struggled to cover the ground with the same verve as we've become accustomed to, looking sore at times with a strapped left knee. After amassing 38 in round one and 40 in round two, others got the job done at the MCG on Friday night.

Christian Petracca has trouble breaking away in round three, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

SSP recruit makes an impact again
Everyone was disappointed when the round one rising star nominee – Nic Martin – missed last weekend after entering health and safety protocols. The mature-age rookie dominated on debut, kicking five goals from 27 disposals against Geelong in round one. The Subiaco product didn’t impact the scoreboard on Friday night, but he showed he is no one-hit wonder, producing another eye-catching display to finish with 20 disposals and eight marks.

Nic Martin celebrates during round three, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE    3.5    4.8    10.12    14.15 (99)
ESSENDON       0.4    3.5     9.5      10.10 (70)

GOALS
Melbourne: Weideman 4, Harmes 2, Fritsch 2, Langdon, McDonald, Petracca, Spargo, Sparrow, Viney
Essendon: Wright 4, Stringer 2, Cutler, McGrath, Perkins, Wanganeen

BEST  
Melbourne:    Oliver, Brayshaw, Weideman, Langdon, Harmes, May
Essendon:  Shiel, Parish, Wright, Ridley, Heppell

INJURIES
Melbourne: None
Essendon: None

SUBSTITUTES
Melbourne: Toby Bedford (unused)
Essendon: Devon Smith (unused)

Crowd: 44,503