WEST Coast has climbed off the bottom of the ladder in thrilling style, surviving a late charge from Essendon to win a rollicking Friday night shootout at Optus Stadium by 10 points to snap a nine-game losing streak.
Led by five-goal star Josh Kennedy, the Eagles flicked a switch offensively and kicked their highest score for the season, winning 16.11 (107) to 14.13 (97) and saluting in front of their home fans for the first time in 2022.
The match looked settled when Kennedy booted his fifth goal 21 minutes into the final term, but back-to-back goals from the Bombers left them with a fighting chance late.
Key defender Tom Barrass took a clutch mark in defence in front of Bomber Peter Wright to steady his team, with the crowd of 40,933 erupting on the siren after a season starved of that winning feeling.
After breaking away to a 22-point lead early, they fell victim to a West Coast team that had nothing to lose and played on at every opportunity, with their forwards feasting as a result.
Kennedy bagged his best return since 2020, while Willie Rioli and Jamie Cripps had excellent games with three each, and Jack Darling booted two, with the Eagles kicking 100 points for the first time since round nine last year.
They wound the clock back with their incredible efficiency, losing the inside-50 entries 58-42 but kicking accurately, including a 10.0 run through the middle stages of the match.
As accurate as the Eagles were through periods, the Bombers wasted their chances, with the dangerous Wright booting 4.4.
It meant their advantage in the midfield, where Dylan Shiel (26 and nine clearances) and Zach Merrett (28 and seven inside 50s) fought hard, was wasted after a strong start.
The Bombers' forwards looked like being match-winners early, with Jake Stringer booting two long-range goals, while Wright did as he pleased in the first quarter, finding the many gaps in the Eagles' backline.
Late goals to spearheads Darling and Kennedy, in what was turning into a tall forward shootout, gave the Eagles some momentum though and they kept it going in the second term.
Their efficiency inside 50 and accuracy was most pronounced in the second quarter, going into attack 12 times for 6.0 compared to the Bombers' 16 entries for 2.5.
Essendon controlled the stoppages and dominated contested ball, but it couldn't convert that advantage on the scoreboard and allowed the Eagles to bounce too easily out of defence.
It was the tale of the night, when one bottom four team enjoyed a pressure release and another left with an unwanted spotlight now on it.
A tale of two forward lines
When the game was on Essendon's terms, it was West Coast's stacked forward line that kept it in the game with brilliant goalkicking. Between Bailey Williams' behind 24 minutes into the first quarter, and Jamie Cripps' miss 20 minutes into the third, the Eagles booted 10 straight goals. It was a throwback to the team at its peak under Adam Simpson, masking a lack of supply. At the other end, the Bombers squandered their opportunities, with Peter Wright's 4.4 a missed chance for a dominant performance. Through the second quarter, the Bombers won the clearances (13-7), centre clearances (6-2), inside 50s (16-12) and contested possessions (38-23). They kicked 2.5 to 6.0.
Martin a proud Bomber
Forward Nic Martin has been a success story at Essendon since joining the club in the pre-season and on Friday night he got his first chance to play against the team that overlooked him after a training stint last year. The Eagles would regret that decision after watching Martin flourish, and the 21-year-old was impressive with 20 disposals and 2.2. Having re-signed with the Bombers until the end of 2024, he showed his passion for the club after converting a set shot early in the third quarter, grabbing at his jumper after giving the Bombers a one-point lead.
WEST COAST 3.3 9.3 13.6 16.11 (107)
ESSENDON 5.5 7.10 10.13 14.13 (97)
West Coast: Kennedy 5, Cripps 3, Rioli 3, Darling 2, Ryan 2, Waterman
Essendon: Wright 4, Stringer 3, Guelfi 2, Martin 2, Jones 2, Perkins
West Coast: Kennedy, Rioli, Cripps, Yeo, Shuey, Darling, Duggan
Essendon: Shiel, Merrett, Stringer, Wright, Kelly, Martin
West Coast: Nil
West Coast: Alex Witherden (unused)
Essendon: Brayden Ham (unused)