MELBOURNE rediscovered its "ruthless edge" and produced what might have been its best overall performance since the first half of the season on Friday night, according to coach Simon Goodwin.
After conceding more than 100 points for the first time since 2019 last Saturday night against the Western Bulldogs, the Demons strangled Fremantle at Optus Stadium and held their opponents to just five goals.
DOCKERS v DEMONS Full match coverage and stats
Goodwin said it was an important win that came at the right time, helping the reigning premier bed down its top-two position three games out from finals.
"We knew it was time to start to really build and it is time. As a footy club we know what it is going to take, and it's going to take an effort like we saw tonight, more often and more consistently," Goodwin said.
"There was a bit of a ruthless edge about us tonight. We were ruthless with how we wanted to defend, and really strong in the contest and that's how we build our game.
"Tonight was the urgency and intensity we need as a football club and it was on show."
Goodwin said after four wins in six games, the Demons felt their game was "trending in the right direction", and they had produced their best performance since the opening 10 rounds in some aspects.
They were outstanding defensively, keeping the Dockers to eight marks inside 50 and holding key forwards Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb to a combined eight marks, 14 disposals and 0.1.
"We're second in the comp for points against, but tonight it was to another level," the coach said.
"It was all over the ground, it was in the front part of the ground, in the back half and our desperation to win contests was back to its highest level and the level you need to win big games.
"We knew the quality of the team against us, we saw it earlier in the year when they beat us at the MCG. I thought our boys rose to the occasion."
Goodwin said young star Luke Jackson had been cleared of damage after suffering a knock to the head late in the game, with the team otherwise unscathed.
He said the Demons had been looking for an opportunity to deploy Angus Brayshaw in the midfield, with the re-signed defender likely to remain in the role for "the next few weeks".
Fremantle coach Justin Longmuir said his team had fallen short with its contest method, with the Demons cleaner and working harder contest to contest.
He said the Dockers had become unpredictable to each other and were caught between moving the ball quickly or being careful with their build-up from defence.
"We need to get to work. We're not as consistent with our roles as we were early in the season, some players have dropped their form, and our contest isn't as even as it was early in the year," Longmuir said.
"When we won our contests our handballs didn't take us anywhere, and when they won their contests they got on the outside of us way too easily.
"We had a disappointing night and we aren't in the form we'd like to be in."
The Dockers could fall as low as seventh by the end of the round if Sydney and Carlton win their respective matches, but Longmuir said he still believed the Dockers could bridge the gap to the competition's best teams.
"Yeah I do, (but) we better be quick about it … we're relying on too few at the moment," he said.
Longmuir said the club would consider the best approach to get key forward Taberner back in form after three goals across his past four weeks, going goalless on Friday night with just six disposals.
"We’ll have to weigh that up," he said when asked if a stint in the WAFL was possible. "We need to get Tabs going, so whatever is best for him, we’ll look at."