IT WAS a costly weekend for at least two finals contenders, while Collingwood is breathing a sigh of relief after its great escape against wooden-spoon favourite North Melbourne. 

All the action was in Queensland, where Gold Coast's last-gasp heroics put a huge dent in Richmond's hopes of making the top four, and left the Tigers among the pack jostling for the last spots in the eight. 

Meanwhile on Sunday, injury and illness took full toll on Brisbane against Essendon, with the Lions slumping to their second loss in three weeks. They now have the Blues and Magpies breathing down their necks as they battle to hold on to the double chance. 

LADDER PREDICTOR Where will your club finish?

Who's in the box seat, and who's facing an uphill battle to finish inside the eight? Check out your club's finish to the season below. 

Adelaide, GWS, Hawthorn, Essendon, North Melbourne and West Coast have not been considered.

1. Geelong

48 points (12 wins, four losses) 136.1 per cent
Geelong is rolling at the minute. Seven wins on the bounce and fresh off beating Melbourne and leapfrogging the reigning premier into first, the Cats are right in the mix as one of the premiership favourites. However, the tough contests keep coming and next Saturday’s meeting with Carlton is no exception. After that, it's three of the last five at the Cattery all against sides outside the eight, but four of their last five against very tricky opposition (Port Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and Gold Coast) who are still in finals contention. - Nick D'Urbano

The run home
R18: Carlton @ MCG
R19: Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
R20: Western Bulldogs @ GMHBA Stadium
R21: St Kilda @ GMHBA Stadium
R22: Gold Coast @ Metricon Stadium
R23: West Coast @ GMHBA Stadium

2. Melbourne

48 points (12 wins, four losses) 133.4 per cent
Melbourne suffered only its fourth loss of the season in a potential Grand Final preview against the Cats but surrendered top spot in the process on percentage. The Dees face a tricky road to the finish with four of their last six against sides in the top eight and only two of those games at the MCG. Clashes in Alice Springs against Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs in the Grand Final rematch are no sure-things as both their opponents battle to stay in the finals hunt but loom as integral to the Demons' minor premiership hopes. - Nick D'Urbano

The run home
R18: Port Adelaide @ TIO Traeger Park
R19: Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium
R20: Fremantle @ Optus Stadium
R21: Collingwood @ MCG
R22: Carlton @ MCG
R23: Brisbane @ Gabba

3. Fremantle

48 points (12 wins, four losses) 123.8 per cent
The Dockers want a top-four spot and the top two is well within their grasp after downing the Saints away on Saturday, but it’s not an easy run home, especially through the next three rounds. The Swans (Optus), Tigers (Marvel) and Demons (Optus) all have plenty to play for and will be throwing everything at Freo, including the kitchen sink. Away games against the Bulldogs and Giants, plus a Derby clash in round 22, should all be wins, but if a double chance is the goal then nothing can be taken for granted. - Howard Kimber

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Fyfe reminds us of his greatness

The run home
R18: Sydney @ Optus Stadium
R19: Richmond @ Marvel Stadium
R20: Melbourne @ Optus Stadium
R21: Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium
R22: West Coast @ Optus Stadium
R23: Greater Western Sydney @ Manuka Oval

4. Brisbane

44 points (11 wins, five losses) 124.0 per cent
Sunday's loss against Essendon puts the Lions right in the ruck of teams fighting for a top-four spot. Coach Chris Fagan will be hoping many of the nine players absent against the Bombers can return against the Giants next week as they start a difficult final six weeks into September. After facing GWS in Canberra, Brisbane finishes its home-and-away season against five teams still battling to play finals. - Michael Whiting

The run home
R18: Greater Western Sydney @ Manuka Oval
R19: Gold Coast @ Gabba
R20: Richmond @ MCG
R21: Carlton @ Gabba
R22: St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Melbourne @ Gabba

5. Carlton

44 points (11 wins, five losses) 116.8 per cent
The Blues edged closer to locking in their finals spot with a 53-point win against West Coast, and back-to-back matches against struggling teams Greater Western Sydney and Adelaide in the next three weeks should see them confirm their ticket to September football. They'll want to win both, however, with a difficult end to the season looming and some scratchy form through periods against the Eagles. The return of Jacob Weitering to an injury-hit backline on Sunday was a step in the right direction, and star forward Charlie Curnow is in fine touch. – Nathan Schmook

The run home
R18: Geelong @ MCG
R19: Greater Western Sydney @ Marvel Stadium
R20: Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
R21: Brisbane @ Gabba
R22: Melbourne @ MCG
R23: Collingwood @ MCG

6. Collingwood

44 points (11 wins, five losses) 106.3 per cent
The Pies' winning streak is still alive, and they're hurtling down the final stretch of the season with great momentum. Despite Saturday's scare against North, the Pies are firmly in the top eight and are knocking on the door of top four. They'll start as favourites against Adelaide and Essendon in their next two games, but tougher opponents loom. They do have to travel twice before the season's over, but the other four games are at the MCG, and with the Pies' record sitting at 7-2 for the venue this season, they're very well placed to play finals – and could even earn a double chance. – Sophie Welsh

The run home
R18: Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
R19: Essendon @ MCG
R20: Port Adelaide @ MCG
R21: Melbourne @ MCG
R22: Sydney @ SCG
R23: Carlton @ MCG

7. Sydney

40 points (10 wins, six losses) 120.5 per cent

The Swans bounced back from their defeat to Essendon to beat the Western Bulldogs on Friday night and keep their top-four hopes alive. But they'll need to keep winning – not just if they want a double chance but also if they're to stay in the eight, with the ninth-placed St Kilda just a game behind. It's a big test this week against Fremantle away, but the Swans should win the three games after that. The final fortnight will shape their finals position. - Callum Twomey

The run home
R18: Fremantle @ Optus Stadium
R19: Adelaide @ SCG
R20: Greater Western Sydney @ SCG
R21: North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Collingwood @ SCG
R23: St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium

8. Richmond

36 points (nine wins, seven losses) 116.4 per cent
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Gold Coast could really come back to bite the Tigers as they're now in the clutch of teams battling for the top eight. They're now two wins, plus percentage, outside the top four, but more notably have a host of teams breathing down their neck. They should gain some breathing space with a win over the battling Kangaroos next week, but the injury prognosis on Toby Nankervis, Ivan Soldo and Tom Lynch, along with the already-missing Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Kane Lambert will be critical. - Michael Whiting

The run home
R18: North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium
R19: Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium
R20: Brisbane @ MCG
R21: Port Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval
R22: Hawthorn @ MCG
R23: Essendon @ MCG

9. St Kilda

36 points (nine wins, seven losses) 104.1 per cent
After missing an opportunity to move into the eight with Saturday night's loss to Fremantle, the Saints need to strike while the iron is, well, soft in the next three weeks, with winnable games against the Bulldogs, Eagles and Hawks. If they can take 12 premiership points through those games they should move back into the eight and have a dozen wins in their kitbag, but they may still need one more with Richmond also having a favourable run home and a better percentage. It could all come down to the Swans at Marvel in the final round.

The run home
R18: Western Bulldogs @ Marvel Stadium
R19: West Coast @ Optus Stadium
R20: Hawthorn @ Marvel Stadium
R21: Geelong @ GMHBA Stadium
R22: Brisbane @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Sydney @ Marvel Stadium

10. Western Bulldogs

32 points (eight wins, eight losses) 110.4 per cent
It's still within the realms that the Dogs make the finals – they are only one win behind eighth-placed Richmond. But the Bulldogs will need to quickly sharpen up, particularly with a very tough month ahead. They will go into this week's clash with St Kilda evenly matched, but will be outsiders against Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle after that. However, if they can manage a win or two there, they should win their last two games which could see last year's Grand Finalists sneak into the eight. - Callum Twomey

The run home
R18: St Kilda @ Marvel Stadium
R19: Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium
R20: Geelong @ GMHBA Stadium
R21: Fremantle @ Marvel Stadium
R22: Greater Western Sydney @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Hawthorn @ UTAS Stadium

11. Gold Coast

32 points (eight wins, eight losses) 108.9 per cent
Noah Anderson's heroic after-the-siren goal breathed life into the Suns' flagging finals hopes. They face four teams below them in the run home, and would need to win all of those and probably pinch one win against either Brisbane or Geelong to qualify for finals. Gold Coast should regain Izak Rankine, Oleg Markov and Jy Farrar from the League's health and safety protocols to face Essendon next week, which will add some much-needed pace and flair to their outfit. - Michael Whiting

The run home
R18: Essendon @ Marvel Stadium
R19: Brisbane @ Gabba
R20: West Coast @ Metricon Stadium
R21: Hawthorn @ UTAS Stadium
R22: Geelong @ Metricon Stadium
R23: North Melbourne @ Marvel Stadium

12. Port Adelaide

32 points (eight wins, eight losses) 108.6 per cent
Port's faint finals hopes are still alive, aided by sides just above them losing in round 17, while it claimed a percentage-boosting 55-point win over GWS to make up plenty of ground. However, the Power face top-eight sides in all of their next four fixtures, starting with reigning premiers Melbourne in Alice Springs followed by ladder leader Geelong in Adelaide. In seven games against current top-eight sides this year, Port has only won one, so the next month will ultimately prove if it warrants finals football or not. Ruckman Scott Lycett may be a welcome boost having played in the SANFL this weekend following a shoulder reconstruction. - Ben Somerford

The run home
R18: Melbourne @ TIO Traeger Park
R19: Geelong @ Adelaide Oval
R20: Collingwood @ MCG
R21: Richmond @ Adelaide Oval
R22: Essendon @ Marvel Stadium
R23: Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval