THIS was another timely and ominous reminder of Richmond's quality and depth.

Forced to survive a late scare on Friday night, conceding the final four goals of the match, the reigning premiers as good as ended Essendon's slim finals hopes with a nervous eight-point win.

Missing captain Trent Cotchin through injury, as well as Dion Prestia, Kane Lambert and David Astbury, the Tigers controlled proceedings for three-and-a-half quarters to win their 20th straight match at the MCG 12.9 (81) to 11.7 (73).

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An incredible chase-down tackle from Daniel Rioli, thwarting an Adam Saad counter attack, sealed Richmond victory and virtually guaranteed the club its first minor premiership since 1982.

It also left a sorry Essendon outfit licking its wounds and looking at booking its September holidays.

An unstoppable Dustin Martin produced a vintage display to inspire Richmond's victory, combining bursts through the midfield with a floating role across half-forward to finish with 26 disposals, 10 marks, four goals and almost certainly another three Brownlow votes.

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He was clearly the best man on the field, though Josh Caddy (17 disposals, four goals) and Jack Riewoldt (14 disposals, two goals) were also dangerous up forward.

"It was a terrible game of footy, but I was happy with the win," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.

"We probably could have shut the gates in the first half, (but) we just didn't quite take our chances inside 50. And as sides gain momentum, as they did in the last quarter, they scored. They threw everything at us.

"It was an OK performance. I thought our system held up well. We've got a couple of areas we need to tidy up, obviously, but we're a work in progress."

In an encounter that lacked intensity early, Richmond did the bare minimum. But the bare minimum proved enough.

Having failed to find the rhythm the football world has come to expect from them early in the match, leading by just eight points at the main break, the Tigers eventually wore down their tiring opponents in the second half with their relentless style of play.

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Despite a raft of premiership stars going out of the Richmond team, their understudies took the reins unnervingly. In front of 76,424 people on a Friday night at the MCG, the likes of Ryan Garthwaite and Liam Baker looked undeterred by the added pressure.

But that's not to say the stars who were playing didn't lead from the front.

Caddy marked everything in the air and was just as efficient at ground level, while Martin was at his bulldozing best when he went through the midfield and was among the most dangerous players on the field when he was shifted inside 50.

The Bombers had thrown the imposing figure of Cale Hooker forward, attempting to stretch a Tigers defence without Astbury. However, he endured a quiet night, blanketed by Garthwaite and Alex Rance before impacting late to kick three last-quarter goals.

Aaron Francis was the shining light on a bleak night for Essendon, winning 13 disposals from eight marks, though his side was ultimately overpowered by Richmond's strength in numbers.

Just like last season, Hardwick will know he's got depth to call upon if needed in September.

"We weren't that far away for most of the night," Essendon coach John Worsfold said.

"The comeback wasn't necessarily a comeback, but it was keeping that margin relatively close. There wasn't a lot between the two teams throughout the night.

"They had some big clutch opportunities … we didn't quite grab the same opportunities, but we were thereabouts throughout the course of the night."

Richmond: Jason Castagna came from the field in the second quarter with a sore quad, but played out the game. Ryan Garthwaite split his head open, but was given a clean jumper and returned to the field.

Essendon: The Bombers had some sore bodies by the end, but got through mainly unscathed. 

Essendon's finals chances could be over by the time it travels to face Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval on Friday night, while Richmond closes its home and away campaign with a clash against the Western Bulldogs at the MCG on Saturday afternoon.

RICHMOND   4.0   5.6  10.8  12.9 (81)
ESSENDON   2.3   4.4   7.5   11.7 (73)          

Richmond: Caddy 4, Martin 4, Riewoldt 2, Castagna, Baker
Essendon: Hooker 3, Brown 2, Baguley, Colyer, Smith, Parish, Stringer, Bellchambers 

Richmond: Martin, Caddy, Rance, Short, Edwards, Ellis
Essendon: Smith, Zaharakis, Saad, Heppell, Bellchambers, McGrath 

Richmond: Castagna (quad), Grimes (back)
Essendon: McDonald-Tipungwuti (ankle) 

Reports: Nil 

Umpires: Chamberlain, Harris, McInerney

Official crowd: 76,424 at the MCG