West Coast could be left to rue a late fadeout after failing to finish the job in their 66-point AFL win over Melbourne on Saturday night at Patersons Stadium.
The Eagles looked on track for a much-needed triple-figure win after piling on nine of the first 10 goals of the match.
But the Demons fought back in the final term, booting three goals to two to limit the carnage and put a minor dent in the Eagles’ top-eight hopes.
Although West Coast ran out 18.11 (119) to 8.5 (53) winners, the percentage boost they received might not be enough to land them a dream finals berth.
Should West Coast beat Gold Coast on the road next week, and Richmond and Collingwood lose as expected, then the Eagles will finish eighth – but only if they can better Adelaide’s percentage.
The Crows’ percentage is 110.2, but they have the chance to boost that significantly when they take on struggling St Kilda next week at Adelaide Oval.
West Coast’s percentage increases from 111.1 to 114.7 after beating Melbourne, but they might need to beat Gold Coast by a comfortable margin to finish above Adelaide.
Eagles forward Josh Kennedy and Mark LeCras feasted on Melbourne’s struggling defence with four goals apiece, while Jack Darling booted three in the opening quarter to kick-start the rout.
Bernie Vince, Nathan Jones and Daniel Cross battled their hearts out for the Demons, but they lacked support.
Melbourne have lost nine straight games.
And if the AFL needed any extra proof that Melbourne needed a priority draft pick, they just had to witness the Demons’ first three quarters against West Coast.
It took until three minutes into the final quarter for Melbourne to take their first mark inside their forward 50m arc.
By then, the contest was over. The Demons have lost their past 15 matches in Perth by an average of 48 points, with their last win at Patersons Stadium in 2004.
Even the pre-match withdrawal of star ruckman Nic Naitanui didn’t faze the Eagles, who piled on the goals with ease to celebrate the final home appearance of retiring veteran Dean Cox.
Melbourne defender Colin Garland suffered an early scare when he jarred his left knee during an awkward landing.
The 26-year-old was able to return to the field, but he was subbed off in the third quarter after struggling to run at full pace.
West Coast were also dealt an early blow when tagger Mark Hutchings injured his hamstring in the opening term.
“It was pretty evident out there the effort levels early on were really good for them and not so good for us,” Melbourne coach Paul Roos said.
“But it was important for us to at least fight the game out and close the gap a tiny bit in the last quarter.”
West Coast coach Adam Simpson conceded his team didn’t finish off the game well.
“I thought there was an opportunity to maybe extend things in the last quarter, but Melbourne didn’t go away. They kept hanging in there,” Simpson said.
“But we’re excited that we get to go to the last game of the season and we’re still a chance to make the eight.”