Essendon face an elimination final against North Melbourne next weekend after playing out a draw with Carlton in Saturday’s last-round AFL clash at the MCG.
A defeat would have left the Bombers vulnerable to finishing eighth and possibly having to play interstate in the first week of the finals.
Essendon led by seven points at the final change and were outscored three goals to two in the final term, clinging to a draw, 13.12 (90) to Cartlon’s 14.6 (90).
Carlton had two late goalscoring chances to snatch a win through Zac Tuohy and Bryce Gibbs.
Jobe Watson, Patrick Ryder and Joe Daniher kicked two goals each for Essendon and Dyson Heppell and Brent Stanton were also busy for the Bombers.
Defender Matthew Watson went forward and kicked a career-best four goals in his 19th game for the Blues.
Onballers Brock McLean and Chris Judd were in good touch for Carlton.
Carlton finished 2014 on a 7-14 win-loss record, while the Bombers have won 12 and lost nine.
The Blues blitzed the Bombers early as Carlton went 30 points ahead at the first break, 6.3 (39) to 1.3 (9).
Essendon responded to coach Mark Thompson’s animated address at quarter-time with an eight-goal barrage in the second term, led by 20-year-old key forward Daniher.
Daniher booted two majors in the second term and had a hand in a couple of others. Essendon led 9.6 (60) to 7.4 (46) at halftime after the Blues had scored only one goal in the second quarter.
McLean floored Brendon Goddard with a crunching block on the members’ wing just before halftime. The Essendon star appeared dazed by the clash and was briefly off the field.
Essendon stretched their lead to 30 points during the third term and seemingly had the game in command before Carlton kicked four consecutive goals to narrow the margin to seven points at three-quarter time, 11.11 (77) to 11.4 (70).
Carlton hit the front courtesy of last-quarter goals from Watson and Cameron Wood but Martin Gleeson put the Bombers ahead by a point with a goal at the 19-minute mark.
The Blues attacked late but couldn’t produce a winning goal.
Carlton skipper Marc Murphy (concussion) and Essendon’s David Myers (ill) were late withdrawals from the selected sides.