JOE DANIHER is Essendon's spearhead, the focal point of a forward line that can lead the Bombers deep into September.

Jake Stringer is its wildcard, already a premiership forward with the Western Bulldogs and a player who loves the big moments. 

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Together, they make anything possible for the Bombers this season.   

But their efforts were ultimately in vain on Thursday in an epic Anzac Day clash that saw Essendon fall four points short of Collingwood at the MCG. 

The Pies, led by evergreen skipper and best-afield Scott Pendlebury, plus his swag of midfield mates, saw off the Bombers' run. 

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But Daniher and Stringer's match-turning moments, in only the ninth game they have played as teammates, showed why Essendon is a threat in 2019. 

There were questions on how Daniher would fare against the Pies, in his second game back from nearly a year out with injury and off only a six-day break.

But the 2017 All Australian and best and fairest winner took up the challenge on a stage he knows well. 

Two years ago, the famous father-son won the Anzac Medal after a best-afield display that included a long goal from the centre square.

But that major will be eclipsed in the memories of Essendon fans by his goal on the half-time siren of this year's encounter, which required a 65-metre shot that snuck over the goal line. 

Essendon had fallen to a 33-point deficit earlier that quarter but the goal – his second of the half – dragged the Bombers back within 15 points at the main break.

What followed six minutes into the next quarter inspired them more. 

With recruit Dylan Shiel running hot, the former Giant's long bomb at the top of the square saw Daniher leap for a huge grab in the pocket and convert his shot.

If there were any concerns over Daniher's long-running groin issues of the past 12 months, that flying grab ended them.

In Daniher's absence last year, Stringer, fresh to the club after being traded by the Dogs, led Essendon's goalkicking count.

He spent some time in the midfield, but largely was Essendon's deep forward option.

Jake Stringer leads his Magpie opponents on a merry dance. Picture: AFL Photos

But after a full pre-season, Stringer entered 2019 confident he could recapture his best form of 2015, when he was an All Australian and booted 56 goals. 

He showed against the Magpies he can. Stringer kicked two goals – both from the forward-50 arc pinned against the boundary line – and he was electric in the third term. 

Stringer's vision and smarts, plus his returning speed, saw him set up a Mark Baguley goal with an astute pass, while he offloaded another to Baguley late in the term to get Essendon to within nine points at the final change. 

Stringer continued to present a threat in the final term. He busted through packs, took on tacklers and looked the Bombers' most dangerous option.

But he wasn't their only one. Daniher was waiting for his moment, too. With his side trailing by nine points 20 minutes into the final term, the agile big man swooped on a loose ball and slotted his fourth goal.  

It was the last goal of a gripping and absorbing contest in which the Magpies, already proven contenders after last year's Grand Final finish, franked their credentials by holding their nerve against a team that could be one of 2019's serious challengers.