Essendon awoke from a second-quarter slumber against the Western Bulldogs, snapping a three-game losing streak with an eight-point win.
The 10.13 (73) to 9.11 (65) victory came after the Bulldogs locked down the Bombers for much of the first half, keeping them goal-less for almost an hour.
But a six-goal third quarter wrestled Essendon back a lead they never let slip.
Dyson Heppell was in excellent touch for the Bombers, picking up 25 disposals, but the win was soured by a knee injury suffered by Jason Winderlich in the final term.
Essendon replicated their Anzac Day flying start by putting on the match’s opening three goals.
It looked like being a dirty day for the Dogs – particularly when Bob Murphy uncharacteristically fumbled the ball from a kick-in, taking a rushed behind.
But the Bulldogs responded to dominate their more fancied opponents, putting on five goals to nil for the rest of the half.
Luke Dahlhaus impressed with two goals and a hand in others.
The secret to the Bulldogs’ success was simple – they won the contested ball, handpassing and running through the Bombers midfield.
The Bombers’ goalless streak finally broke when Winderlich snapped truly early in the third term.
Whatever Essendon coach Mark Thompson said at half-time seemed to have worked.
Essendon earned back control of the clearances, and in five minutes put distance between themselves and the Bulldogs through Brent Stanton, Paul Chapman and Dyson Heppell majors.
After the last change, a contentious fifty-metre penalty gave Jake Stringer an early goal and brought the Bulldogs back to within seven points.
Watson and Lachie Hunter traded goals to set up a tense finale but the Bulldogs could not find a way through the Dons defence, marshalled by the ageless Dustin Fletcher.
The win spares Thompson a week of sharp criticism that looked likely at half-time.
But instead the Bombers improved their win-loss ratio to 3-4, facing just one top eight side in the next six weeks.