ESSENDON has survived a late surge from Hawthorn after a hard-fought first half on Friday night, getting home 14.12 (96) to 11.11 (77) after leading by 38 points midway through the final term.
Both clubs entered the game with five wins on the board, knowing that to drop four points at this stage of the season would see September hopes slipping away, and the Hawks now have their backs to the wall if they're to make a ninth finals series in 10 years.
The Bombers may only be one win better off and still outside the top eight, but with momentum from back-to-back wins and a relatively healthy list they will attack the second half of the season with intent.The contest was close through the opening hour, with the physicality expected when these two sides meet keeping the Marvel Stadium crowd of 44,846 involved from the opening bounce.
However, it was Essendon that grabbed the ascendancy in the third term and took a 23-point lead into the final break - something that didn't please many in the brown and gold.
Michael Hurley continued his outstanding form, repelling opposition attacks time and again, with the ball often finishing in the hands of the line-breaking, ball-bouncing Connor McKenna.
The night could yet have a downside for the Bombers though, with star forward Jake Stringer sustaining an ankle injury in the third quarter and taking no further part in the match.
The Hawks had no trouble getting the ball, with Liam Shiels, James Worpel and Ricky Henderson racking up the disposals, but they couldn't convert an early lopsided inside-50 count into scoring opportunities.
ESSENDON 2.2 6.7 11.11 14.12 (96)
Essendon: Begley 2, Fantasia 2, Langford 2, Stringer 2, Bellchambers, Guelfi, McKernan, Saad, Parish, Merrett
Hawthorn: Impey 2, Breust, Moore, Puopolo, Ceglar, Gunston, Glass, McEvoy, Scully, Henderson
Essendon: Merrett, Hooker, Heppell, Clarke, McKenna, Hurley
Hawthorn: Worpel, Impey, Smith, Henderson, Sicily
Essendon: Stringer (leg)
Official crowd: 44,846 at Marvel Stadium