WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge didn't have to be "Nostradamus" to know star Marcus Bontempelli would be North Melbourne's No.1 target in Saturday night's bruising encounter.
An upbeat and proud Beveridge lauded his troops for standing up in the face of some fierce Kangaroos aggression, most of it aimed at Bontempelli, and emerging with a gritty 14-point victory at Etihad Stadium.
Bontempelli shrugged off the attention, which started in a scuffle with Michael Firrito before the opening bounce, and still finished with 19 touches and a goal in another mature display.
Beveridge said it was obvious given the quality and number of injured players – including Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis and Jack Macrae – missing from the Dogs' midfield that Bontempelli would be targeted.
The Roos also appeared to have long memories after Bontempelli caused a stir following their round six win over the Dogs, when he said there was "malice" in a high hit by Lindsay Thomas on Lachie Hunter.
"You didn't have to be Nostradamus to know it was going to happen," Beveridge said.
"I thought we planned really well for it. You probably saw at the start there was a bit of angst in the game, it happened last time we played them as well, so you could see it coming from a mile away – we don't need to live on a hill.
"For our group to be ready for that, and to stand up to it, was enormous.
"Marcus is the standout stalwart (left) in there (midfield).
"There's no doubt the Kangaroos and everyone will think 'If we stop Marcus Bontempelli, we're a chance to stop their midfield' but he's made of pretty special substances Marcus, and his teammates will always support him."
The Dogs' gutsy win all-but guaranteed in a return trip to finals in Beveridge's second season at the helm.
The coach hasn't closed the door on his side's top-four hopes, either, although he conceded the cards needed to fall the Bulldogs' way in the final three rounds given their relatively low percentage.
The Dogs are a win and 24.1 per cent behind fourth-placed Greater Western Sydney, with Collingwood, last-placed Essendon and strugglers Fremantle to come.
"We can't stop in the sand and sunbake, we've got to forge on to Collingwood, who are obviously trying to finish the year of well," Beveridge said.
Although the Bulldogs only kicked nine goals in another low-scoring performance against the Roos, Beveridge said his side's attacking synergy was a work in progress and was thrilled with their defensive intensity.
"They were enormous tonight our boys, probably up against the odds and unexpected from the public at large," he said.
"But they showed a lot of heart and it was a great defensive effort to keep North Melbourne to that score (47 points).
"Again, we get 60 entries (inside 50) and probably burnt some opportunities we'd like to take, but we had 22 really solid contributors."
The Dogs could get Matt Suckling (Achilles) back from injury next week, while ruckman Tom Campbell (foot) and Bailey Williams (knee) could return via the VFL.
Beveridge expected tough nut Clay Smith to be fine after he was "dazed" in the first quarter on Saturday night when his head hit the turf in a tackle and sat out the rest of the game.