FREMANTLE has survived a desperate late charge from Port Adelaide to steady its season, winning a thrilling clash at Optus Stadium by eight points on Sunday evening.
After leading by 40 points late in the third quarter, the Dockers switched off as the Power surged back into the contest with four straight goals that cut the margin to nine points.
Freo then clung to its lead as Port sprayed late opportunities, eventually winning 15.9 (99) to 14.7 (91) in a potentially season-defining result for both teams.
DOCKERS v POWER Full match coverage and stats
Andrew Brayshaw laid a heroic chase-down tackle on Jeremy Finlayson to set up the crucial goal to Lachie Schultz that gave the Dockers some breathing room in the dying stages.
But Power forwards Todd Marshall and Robbie Gray both sprayed gettable set shots in the final minutes that could have delivered a critical win on the road, with Port missing a chance to close the gap on the top eight.
Fremantle forward Rory Lobb was outstanding, booting a career-best five goals and dominating his side's middle stages of the game as the Dockers made their move.
Ruckman Sean Darcy was also enormous, controlling the stoppages against makeshift opponents Finlayson and Charlie Dixon and giving the Dockers a stoppage advantage that they relished, winning the clearances 48-30.
Jordan Clark played one of his best games for the club with a career-best 29 disposals and seven inside 50s, while fellow recruit James Aish (29 and two goals) stood up at big moments.
Port's inability to play a recognised ruckman due to injuries and illness hurt them severely, with Freo dominating the centre clearances 20-10.
Still, midfield duo Ollie Wines (39 disposals and five clearances) and Travis Boak (32 and five inside 50s) fought hard against the tide.
Dixon stepped up to drive the Power revival in the fourth quarter, booting back-to-back goals in the opening five minutes, including a brilliant snap from the boundary.
Midfielder Connor Rozee was also prominent, kicking a late goal during the Power's run and moving well in traffic to set up teammates.
A hamstring injury to youngster Lachie Jones and a knock to Dan Houston were late setbacks, but the Power ultimately shot themselves in the foot by not taking their chances.
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The match started in frantic style, with Port winning the early stoppages and running riot on the outside with quick ball movement.
By the time the Dockers gathered themselves, they had conceded the first three goals and needed to respond in the middle to get their game going.
Veteran David Mundy was the ignitor, setting up Matt Taberner to boot the team's first and later streaming out of the centre square to hit Lobb lace out as the Dockers went on a roll of their own.
Only a brilliant snap in the pocket from Marshall interrupted Fremantle's four-goal run, ensuring scores were tied at the first break.
It was then the Dockers went on their match-defining run, with captain Nat Fyfe kicking the first of four straight goals when he marked inside 50 and converted his set shot.
The margin blew out to 25 points before the Power responded through the accurate long kicking of Sam Powell-Pepper and Kane Farrell, but Caleb Serong's brilliance in the pocket restored a four-goal lead at the main break.
Lobb took over in the third term, kicking three of his five goals in a powerful display of contested marking and accurate kicking that will have the Dockers desperate to retain the valuable tall in 2023.
With a 40-point lead late in the term, the result seemed all but settled, until Dixon sparked a late charged in the final term that had the Dockers rattled and relieved on the final siren.
Serong's buzzer beater
The winner of Goal of the Year last season, Caleb Serong, lodged his entry for this year's award with four seconds to play in the second term. Swooping on Finlayson's stray hit-out into space, the Freo midfielder gathered the ball as he was running towards the boundary in the pocket and expertly converted on his left to cap a dominant quarter from his team. The brilliant goal was from the opposite pocket to last year's snap against West Coast at Optus Stadium, which capped off a Glendenning-Allen Medal performance from the young gun.
Georgiades and Young duke it out
Before Serong's goal, gun Fremantle defender Hayden Young looked like he had delivered the highlight of the match when he reeled in a high-flying mark on the wing, tumbling over on his way down for effect. Late in the third quarter, however, Power forward Mitch Georgiades outdid them both when he soared high over Brennan Cox to take a classic mark. The spectacular grab will take some beating for Mark of the Year, but Georgiades let himself down with the kick afterwards, spraying his set shot after the siren and continuing a frustrating season in front of goal.
Fyfe and the element of surprise
Having returned from injury and become part of the Dockers' centre bounce rotation the past fortnight, Fyfe was switched to a permanent half-forward role on Sunday. The skipper started forward and worked into the play from there but did not attend a single centre bounce, finishing with 21 possessions (seven contested) and a goal. Fyfe's role looks likely to change weekly, with coach Justin Longmuir keen to retain an element of mystery about how the dual Brownlow medallist will be used. The midfield showed it can hold up without him, and the forwards benefited when he was in attack, with the balance on Sunday clearly working.
FREMANTLE 4.2 10.4 14.8 15.9 (99)
PORT ADELAIDE 4.2 6.3 9.4 14.7 (91)
Fremantle: Lobb 5, Aish 2, Taberner 2, Schultz 2, Brayshaw, Frederick, Fyfe, Serong
Port Adelaide: Dixon 2, Georgiades 2, Rozee 2, Amon, Bergman, Boak, Burton, Farrell, Marshall, Mead, Powell-Pepper
Fremantle: Lobb, Darcy, Aish, Clark, Serong, Brayshaw, Young
Port Adelaide: Wines, Boak, Rozee, Dixon, Byrne-Jones, Burton
Fremantle: Taberner (hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Jones (hamstring)
Port Adelaide: Xavier Duursma (quad) replaced by Miles Bergman
Fremantle: Bailey Banfield (replaced Taberner in the fourth quarter)
Port Adelaide: Steven Motlop (replaced Lachie Jones)