HAWTHORN is one win away from a third consecutive Grand Final after defeating Geelong by 36 points in a gripping qualifying final on Friday night at the MCG.

Sam Mitchell, Bradley Hill and Isaac Smith were dominant in the midfield, while Brian Lake held Tom Hawkins to just one goal as the reigning premiers won 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68).

Jack Gunston did much of the damage on the scoreboard for the Hawks, kicking three goals and narrowly taking the points in an engrossing duel with fellow All Australian contender Tom Lonergan.

Jordan Lewis also booted three majors, two of them late as the Hawks kicked four of the final five goals of the game. 

"We were really pleased with our endeavour tonight," Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said

"We tackled well and put a lot of pressure on the Geelong ball-carrier.
"You just need to persevere in big games against quality opponents. We stuck at it and eventually broke the game open later on."

Cats skipper Joel Selwood did everything he could to drag his team over the line. 

He finished with 31 disposals, nine clearances and three goals, while Jimmy Bartel was another impressive performer, booting two majors, gathering 20 touches and taking a couple of sensational marks.

Steve Johnson slowed after a superb start, a foot injury that sidelined him for three weeks clearly limiting his impact the longer the game went. 

However, Geelong's hopes were undone by their inability to kick a competitive score, with Hawkins eclipsed by Lake one week after he kicked a career-best seven goals against the Brisbane Lions. 

Chris Scott did his best to conjure some magic from the coaches' box, throwing Harry Taylor forward in the second half.

But his team was unable to make up for the lack of goals from Hawkins.

"I'm not saying we were unlucky or anything like that," Scott said after the match

"We just couldn't execute our skills well enough on the night.

"But early on, I thought the pressure of the game, the opposition and the occasion probably showed with both sides.

"There were some easy marks dropped and it was a bit uncharacteristic of both sides.

"But in the end we just made too many mistakes too often … and our forward line didn't function well enough."

Although Hawthorn largely controlled the final quarter, the first three were typical of the recent contests between the clubs, with the pressure fierce and the momentum swinging back and forth.

Geelong, which had lost only four first quarters for the season, made the pace in the opening 15 minutes.

The Cats kicked the first two goals, with much of their midfield drive coming from Johnson, who was back after three weeks on the sidelines with a foot injury.

However, the Hawks then took control, snaring a nine-point lead by quarter-time and extending their advantage to 14 points by midway through the second term.

Scott's men soon rebounded, kicking two goals in the last minute of the opening half – the second of them a long bomb by Josh Walker after the siren – to level the scores at the long break.

Hawthorn regained the upper hand by kicking four goals to two in the third quarter, and the Hawks then ran riot in the final term.

They had the game in the bag when Roughead extended their lead to 22 points by slotting a curling long-range snap with seven minutes to go. 

With their supporters dancing in the aisles, they piled on three more goals for good measure.

It was the greatest margin between the teams since round 22, 2006, when the Hawks beat the Cats by 61 points.

Having broken an 11-game losing streak against Geelong in last year's preliminary final, Hawthorn has now defeated the Cats three times in four matches.

The latest victory means the Hawks will enjoy a week's rest before hosting a preliminary final at the MCG.

The Cats will be back at the 'G next week, fighting to keep their season alive against the winner of Saturday's clash between North Melbourne and Essendon.

Other than Selwood and Bartel, their best performers were Travis Varcoe, Josh Caddy, Cameron Guthrie and Mathew Stokes.

The downside for Geelong – and the upside for the Hawks – is that the qualifying final winners have gone on and made the Grand Final in each of the past seven seasons.

Luke Hodge and the Hawks booked a preliminary final berth for the fourth straight year. Picture: AFL Media

HAWTHORN   3.4   6.5   10.8  15.14 (104)
GEELONG      2.1   6.5   8.6    10.8 (68)

Hawthorn: Gunston 3, Lewis 3, Puopolo 2, Roughead 2, Smith, Hale, Hodge, Breust, Langford
Geelong: Selwood 3, Bartel 2, Murdoch, Walker, Hawkins, Blicavs, Johnson

Hawthorn: Mitchell, Gunston, Hill, Smith, Lake, Birchall, Burgoyne, Puopolo
Geelong: Selwood, Bartel, Stokes, Varcoe, Horlin-Smith, Guthrie   

Hawthorn: Nil
Geelong: Johnson (foot)  

Hawthorn: Brad Sewell replaced by Jonathan Simpkin in the final quarter
Geelong: Hamish McIntosh replaced by Jackson Thurlow in the final quarter

Reports: Nil
Umpires: Nicholls, Chamberlain, Pannell 

Official crowd: 74,753 at the MCG