SYDNEY's top-four hopes remain well and truly alive after delivering a substantial blow to Melbourne's finals bid, holding tough to register a nine-point win at the MCG on Sunday.
But the Swans' joy at victory was tempered by the news Alex Johnson is likely to require a sixth knee reconstruction after suffering a suspected ruptured right ACL in the first quarter.
With just two men on the bench before half-time after a hamstring injury sidelined Nick Smith, the Swans displayed their trademark toughness and grit, as well as superior polish, to hold off a late Melbourne fightback and claim a 13.9 (87) to 10.18 (78) victory.
Sydney held a 28-point advantage at three-quarter time but the Demons came back with a vengeance. Three Melbourne goals on the trot trimmed the margin to seven points when Nathan Jones kicked truly at the 18-minute mark.
SWANS HANG ON Full match coverage and stats
That was as close as Melbourne got, with the move of Isaac Heeney behind the ball as the loose man in defence proving a masterstroke from coach John Longmire.
The Swans' win saw them rise up to sixth on the ladder, while the loss consigns the Demons, who have not featured in finals since 2006, to seventh on the ladder with games against West Coast and Greater Western Sydney to close out the season.
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Sydney seized control of the contest in the second term, booting six goals in the space of just 16 minutes to erode an 18-point Melbourne advantage.
Jake Lloyd (31 disposals at 80.6 per cent efficiency) and Nic Newman (22 disposals at 77.3 per cent efficiency) controlled the flow of the game from the back half, while Aliir Aliir (10 marks) constantly chopped off Demon kicks going inside 50.
The Swans had 99 uncontested marks to Melbourne's 61, as the Swans cleverly maintained possession and exposed the Demons' inability to defend by constantly creating the outnumber forward of the ball and making the Demons' defensive press look second-rate.
Swans skipper Josh Kennedy had a huge second half, with 17 of his 28 disposals coming after the main break, while the Swans levelled the clearances (33-33) despite being smashed in hit-outs (17-59).
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Lance Franklin booted 2.5 but was influential at important times in the game, while Tom Papley's three goals came at damaging points of the contest.
Swans coach John Longmire said it was a gutsy win, all things considered.
"When you have two players down at quarter-time and you're playing against a team on their home deck who have had a fantastic year and a great win last week, our boys were terrific, absolutely terrific," Longmire said.
"Those second and third quarters we certainly moved the ball as well as we've moved it and were able to hit the scoreboard. Melbourne missed some shots and we didn't have much luck go our way at the start of the game either.
"It was just a fantastic win."
Melbourne had its chances but its inefficiency going inside forward 50, despite dominating that stat (60-43), and inaccuracy in front of goal proved costly.
Isaac Heeney!!!!August 12, 2018
Midfielders Dom Tyson (31 disposals), James Harmes (26) and Angus Brayshaw (25 and six clearances) were among Melbourne's best, but they were unable to utilise Max Gawn's advantage in the ruck.
Aaron vandenBerg was Melbourne's leading goal-kicker with three majors, in his second game back following a serious foot injury that sidelined him for almost two years.
"It was incredibly disappointing," coach Simon Goodwin said.
"We didn't connect well forward of centre. It's been a little bit of a tale of some of our games this year where we've struggled to connect and have efficiency inside forward 50.
"That was a little bit of where the game was lost and we certainly didn't do that well."
There was more heartbreak for Johnson, who injured his right knee in the first quarter, with Sydney fearing the luckless defender has injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his 'good' knee.
If that is the case, the 26-year-old is staring down the barrel at a sixth knee reconstruction.
Taking the injuries into account and the high stakes the game was played under, Sydney's win was one of its best of the season and time will tell whether it is a legitimate finals threat or a spent force.
A record number of people turned out for the Field of Women at the MCG. Picture: AFL Photos
Melbourne: Jesse Hogan went down to the rooms in the third term with a right foot issue. Goodwin is hopeful the star forward will be OK to play against the Eagles. Jayden Hunt limped from the field with a right ankle complaint in the final term and did not return. Goodwin said after the game that Hunt has re-injured the right ankle, the same one that sidelined him in June. The defender will get scans during the week to assess the damage. Neville Jetta was assessed for concussion in a collision with Lance Franklin in the third term, but was able to play on.
Sydney: Alex Johnson injured his right knee while changing direction as he tried to tackle Demon Jesse Hogan. Johnson made a fairytale return last week against Collingwood after the best part of six years on the sidelines following five knee reconstructions. The Swans fear that he has ruptured the ACL in his good right knee. Nick Smith (glute/hamstring) spent time down in the rooms in the second quarter and also did not re-enter the game. Longmire said after the game he was unsure of the severity of the injury.
Melbourne will travel to Perth to take on West Coast at Optus Stadium next Sunday, while the Swans take on Greater Western Sydney in the local derby at Spotless Stadium next Saturday.
MELBOURNE 2.6 3.12 7 .14 10.18 (78)
SYDNEY 1.1 7.2 13.6 13.9 (87)
Melbourne: vandenBerg 3, T.McDonald 2, Petracca, Hogan, Pedersen, Garlett, Jones
Sydney: Papley 3, Heeney 2, Franklin 2, Cunningham, Hayward, Hannebery, Dawson, Kennedy, McCartin
Melbourne: Brayshaw, Tyson, Harmes, Oliver, Salem
Sydney: Lloyd, Heeney, Newman, Aliir, Franklin, Kennedy, Hewett
Melbourne: Hunt (ankle), Jetta (nose), Hogan (foot)
Sydney: Johnson (knee), Smith (back)
Umpires: Dalgleish, Nicholls, Fleer
Official crowd: 51,424 at the MCG