LANCE Franklin was the difference again in a Sydney victory, on a night he moved clear of Peter McKenna into outright ninth place on the all-time goalkicking list.

The Swans' incomparable spearhead was goalless in the opening half for the second straight week, but came up big when it counted – booting the go-ahead major in the last term – to help deliver an important triumph.

The thrilling 13.8 (86) to 11.13 (79) win over the Western Bulldogs moved John Longmire's side to 3-1 for the season and made it 13 wins from 14 games at Etihad Stadium.

BUDDY DOES IT AGAIN: Full match details and stats

"I thought the Doggies played pretty well and I didn't think we were as good as what we should have been," Longmire told reporters.

"We probably just got caught up in the turnover game early in the game and got beaten at that, which we're normally pretty strong at.

"Fortunately, at half-time we were able to regroup … we needed to get the momentum back our way and do it pretty quickly and sometimes you've just got to find a way to win.

"And to our players' credit, they found a way to win, even though the stats, almost all of them, were well in the Bulldogs' favour."

The Dogs will be kicking themselves after blowing a 22-point lead early in the second quarter and having more inside 50s (60-42), disposals (397-342) and tackles (57-47) to slip to their third defeat in four rounds.

Josh Dunkley, the son of ex-Sydney defender Andrew, was a good performer, but blew a chance to tie the scores with three minutes left, when he bobbled an uncontested mark on the edge of the square.

A Luke Dahlhaus major brought the Dogs within a point shortly after, but young Swan Oliver Florent sealed the match after leaving Tim English in his wake.

THE FLORENT EXPRESS: Five talking points

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was not buying into suggestions post-match that it was a game his team should have won.

"Oh, no – shoulda, woulda, coulda," Beveridge said.

"There were some encouraging things there that we fought our way back when the Swans had momentum (in the third quarter) and we played a pretty good brand for most of the night.

"We had our chances to make it a bit closer or come over the top, but we just lacked a bit of polish at the end."

Beveridge's pre-match talk of sending first-year defender Aaron Naughton to Franklin never eventuated and the job instead went to skipper Easton Wood.

Wood wore Franklin like a glove for much of the opening half, but the forward showed signs of breaking the shackles before the main break and began making his mark in the third term.

The 31-year-old speared the Swans ahead with his opening major – and 875th overall, to go ahead of McKenna – almost eight minutes into the second half.

SHOWREEL: Swans' defence holds up strong

Franklin finished with three from seven scoring shots to be the dominant player on the ground, with fellow forwards Will Hayward and Aliir Aliir failing to fire.

Luke Parker (21 disposals, 10 tackles) also kicked three goals for Sydney – all in the first half – while Dane Rampe (23) was stout in defence from the get-go.

WATCH: Cunningham slams it on the boot

The Bulldogs' possession-maintaining machine – one of the keys to their demolition of Essendon a week earlier – was on song early.

Ruckman English (16, 24 hit-outs) was prolific in the quick start and helped his side to an advantage in the centre clearances, which enabled his small men to spread at will.

In-form midfielder Jack Macrae (34, seven clearances), Mitch Wallis (23), the sweet-kicking Matt Suckling (28) and Bailey Dale (18) were all prominent in driving the Dogs into attack.

Once inside 50, they defied their status as the AFL's most wayward outfit in front of goal to produce a series of wonderful finishes.

Tory Dickson's remarkable boundary-hugging checkside goal from deep in the pocket was the pick of them, but Marcus Bontempelli's effort wasn't far behind.

WATCH: Bontempelli the last man standing

The Bont spoiled Josh Kennedy, hunted down the ball and nailed a superb left-foot snap from 40m to give the Bulldogs a game-high 22-point lead inside five minutes of the second term.

The problem was it took until the 20-minute mark a quarter later for their next goal to come, a period the Franklin-inspired Swans piled on six majors to surge ahead.

WATCH: Tory Dickson kicks a belter

The Bulldogs only had themselves to blame with a series of costly turnovers aiding the Sydney comeback.

But back-to-back Wallis and Bontempelli majors in a minute put the contest on an even keel entering the final term.

Western Bulldogs: Toby McLean left the field briefly midway through the second quarter to have his nose and cheekbone assessed, but returned before half-time and played out the match. 

Sydney: Lance Franklin clutched his left shoulder at one point in the second term and a trainer came out, but he never left the ground and his best form came after it. Coach John Longmire played down the injury afterwards: "I must admit I looked at it and I thought he'd hurt it, but … I was just talking to him then – he's fine, he's good."

Sydney (3-1) has a six-day turnaround before hosting an Adelaide side on the rebound at the SCG on Friday night. The Western Bulldogs (1-3) will get their first taste of Optus Stadium next Saturday night, when they take on Fremantle.

WATCH: Ollie Florent seals the deal


Top 10 VFL/AFL career goalkickers




 Tony Lockett



 Gordon Coventry



 Jason Dunstall



 Doug Wade



 Gary Ablett



 Jack Titus



 Matthew Lloyd



 Leigh Matthews



 Lance Franklin



 Peter McKenna




WESTERN BULLDOGS                        5.3       7 7.      9.10.   13.8 (86)                  
SYDNEY                                             4.0       6.3       10.4     11.13 (79)          

Western Bulldogs: Dickson 2, Bontempelli 2, Redpath, Gowers, Jong, Dale, Wallis, Daniel, Dahlhaus
Sydney: Franklin 3, Parker 3, Papley 2, Heeney 2, Cunningham, Towers, Florent 

Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Suckling, Dunkley, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus
Sydney: Franklin, Rampe, Parker, Heeney, McVeigh, Hannebery, Papley

Western Bulldogs: Nil
Sydney: Nil 

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Stevic, Deboy, Gavine

Official crowd: 28,058 at Etihad Stadium