Melbourne has all but locked down an AFL finals berth in round 22, but the exact make-up of the top eight will go down to the wire.
The Demons had to work hard for their 13-point win over Brisbane at the MCG where Jesse Hogan was the hero with six goals in his first game back from a broken collarbone.
Simon Goodwin’s side are seventh on the ladder after 22 rounds, one win ahead of a chasing pack made up of Essendon (eighth), West Coast (ninth), St Kilda (10th) and the Western Bulldogs (11th).
Those teams have 44 premiership points and are all still mathematical chances to play finals depending on results in round 23.
The Demons would need a lot to go wrong for them to slip out of the eight, but coach Simon Goodwin wasn’t willing to look past his side’s clash against Collingwood when asked about the prospect of a first finals campaign since 2006.
“We’ve still got work to do … we’ve still got a job to do next week,” Goodwin said after the 16.8 (104) to 14.7 (91) win over the Lions.
“I’ve said this from a long way out when these questions started … it’s where you sit at the end of round 23 and last time I checked we’ve still got a week to go.
“We’ve got a really big game next week, a really important game for the club against an opposition that’s playing some really good footy.
“I think it’s exciting for our supporters the position that we’re in, but the job’s not done yet. We haven’t achieved anything just yet.”
The Demons had one sour note, with star midfielder Bernie Vince likely to come under scrutiny for a late hit on Dayne Beams.
Essendon’s chances of playing finals were boosted by their 12.18 (90) to 9.3 (57) win over Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, while St Kilda trounced North Melbourne 18.19 (127) to 12.6 (78) to keep hopes of a finals send-off for retiree Nick Riewoldt.
Hawthorn were the only side to be ruled out of the finals race after they suffered a 12.5 (77) to 10.10 (70) loss to Carlton — their first defeat to the Blues since 2005.
The Bulldogs’ premiership defence suffered a blow when Port Adelaide prevailed 14.12 (96) to 11.13 (79) in the first AFL match for premiership points in Ballarat.
There’s also plenty of action to play out at the top of the the ladder.
Greater Western Sydney’s quest for a top-two finish was aided by their 12.9 (81) to 9.6 (60) win over the Eagles at Spotless Stadium.
The second-placed Giants face Geelong (third) at Simonds Stadium on Saturday night, with second spot the prize for the winner, after the Cats’ 10.10 (70) to 9.5 (59) win over Collingwood.
Sydney put themselves in the top-four mix when they kicked off the round with a thrilling three-point win over Adelaide, who can’t drop out of the top two.