Essendon is in control of its finals destiny after jumping back inside the eight after its win over Gold Coast on Saturday night.
The Bombers dominated most areas of the match but couldn’t fully capitalise on the scoreboard in their 12.18 (90) to 9.3 (57) victory.
They have jumped West Coast to move into the top eight and must defeat Fremantle at Etihad Stadium next Sunday to give themselves a chance of playing finals for the first time since 2014.
It won’t be easy though.
In what shapes as an exciting final round, Melbourne (who have a game in hand against the Brisbane Lions on Sunday), the Bombers, West Coast and Western Bulldogs are all on 44 premiership points, vying for two finals spots.
Melbourne finish with a game against Collingwood, Essendon have the Dockers and West Coast hosts ladder leaders Adelaide in the final home and away match of the season.
The Bombers had to work hard to shake the pesky Suns, but eventually ground their way to victory.
They led at every change and got a huge contribution from midfielder David Zaharakis, who finished with 38 disposals.
Joe Daniher was blanketed by Suns captain Steven May, kicking just one goal – from a free kick in the final term – to remain four goals behind Eagle Josh Kennedy in the race for the Coleman Medal.
While Daniher struggled, fellow forward James Stewart, Cale Hooker and debutant Josh Begley all kicked two goals, while Brendon Goddard, impressive Andrew McGrath and Mark Baguley were prolific ball winners with 25 disposals apiece.
Essendon had the ball camped in its forward half for most of the game, but took until early in the last quarter to assert any real dominance.
They won the inside 50s by a whopping 71-31, which came on the back of midfield dominance in disposals (418-346), clearances (36-29) and contested ball (147-121).
Gold Coast was far from disgraced though, and despite missing some of its best players through injury – namely Gary Ablett and Tom Lynch – put in one of their most consistent four-quarter efforts for many weeks.
May was fantastic, Ben Ainsowrth with three goals showed his enormous potential, and Aaron Hall (31 touches) worked hard.
Begley was living a dream in the first quarter, playing an opening 20 minutes he’ll do well to top at any stage in his career.
The teenage forward taken at pick 31 in last year’s draft joined the list of players to kick a goal with their first kick in the AFL, but he wasn’t stopping there.
With his next two kicks, he set up Stewart with pinpoint passes and moments later bagged his second goal with a towering drop punt from outside 50m.
It was an imperious 10-minute stretch from the 19-year-old.
Gold Coast mixed its team up early on, throwing Jarrod Harbrow forward, Callum Ah Chee back and rotating its small midfielders through the forward line, but it made little difference.
They turned the ball over almost monotonously in the first quarter, but once settling down in the second, snatched the lead after three straight goals.
GOLD COAST 3.1 6.1 8.1 9.3 (57)
ESSENDON 4.2 6.8 8.11 12.18 (90)
Gold Coast: Ainsworth 3, Wright, Martin, Schoenfeld, Swallow, Macpherson, Hallahan
Essendon: Hooker 2, Stewart 2, Begley 2, Green, McKenna, Heppell, Daniher, Parish, McDonald-Tipungwuti
Gold Coast: May, Hanley, Hall, McKenzie, Swallow
Essendon: Zaharakis, Goddard, Baguley, Kelly, McGrath
Gold Coast: Nil
Essendon: Green (foot)
Umpires: Foot, Stevic, O’Gorman
Official crowd: 16,817 at Metricon Stadium
Source: Essendon FC’s website