Sydney has kept its hopes of a top-four berth alive, defeating Essendon by seven points in a shootout at the MCG.
The past four matches between these two teams had been decided by an average of just six points, and Sunday's edition was no exception, with the Swans holding on as the Bombers kicked two late goals in the 17.7 (109) to 16.6 (102) result.
The game sprang to life in the third term, and while the defensive coaches from both sides wouldn't have been pleased, a total of 12 goals were kicked as backlines were caught out with quick movement into attack.
Sitting just two points in arrears at the final break, Essendon kept up with Sydney for most of the final term, but just fell short.
Sydney had dominated the uncontested play in the first quarter, recording an astonishing 46 marks as Essendon allowed the Swans to chip the ball at will.
Despite having that much footy, it was the Bombers who carried an eight-point lead into the first break, with the Swans only entering 50 on nine occasions for a return of 2.1.
Tom Hickey clearly had enough of the stop-start game, wresting the ball out of the ruck in the opening centre bounce of the second term and booting it long, resulting in a quick Sam Reid goal.
While the Swans moved the ball with more purpose, taking the lead for the first time, it was the Bombers who slowly but steadily piled on the goals, catching the visitors on the back foot in defence to lead by 12 at half-time.
Tom Papley ran riot, kicking four goals, while Callum Mills (21 disposals, nine marks) and Luke Parker (17 and six clearances) were the drivers in the midfield with Jordan Dawson (21 and nine marks) playing an important linking role.
For the Bombers, Jake Stringer had the occasional patch of brilliance charging out of the middle, Kyle Langford kicked three amidst spending time on the exercise bike and Zach Merrett showed outstanding workrate both in attack and defence.
Jayden Laverde did well to hold Lance Franklin to two goals, but his day finished about five minutes early with a right shoulder complaint.
Heeney's heroics kickstarts Swans
Isaac Heeney had a relatively quiet first half, but did his best to drag Sydney back into the match with a fine defensive effort at half forward. Finding himself in a two-on-one situation, he interrupted an Essendon handball and followed up with a tackle, winning a holding-the-ball free. Instead of bombing long to Lance Franklin or Tom Hickey, he steadied, finding Luke Parker with a kick across his body. It cut the margin to six points.
Another dose of Papley magic
Tom Papley had a day out against the Bombers, kicking his third four-goal haul this season and relishing the attention afforded to the taller Sydney forwards. It wasn't just down to some occasional loose checking either, the Swan running hard both ways in order to create space to cause havoc. He finished with 14 touches and eight score involvements.
Bombers' interchange confusion
Peter Wright's set shot cut the margin to 13 points with 3.5 minutes left, but the Bombers had used all 75 of their interchange rotations, leaving Dylan Shiel, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Archie Perkins (and the injured Jayden Laverde) stranded on the bench. After some protracted discussion, the Bombers were eventually allowed to bring substitute Brayden Ham onto the ground, technically their 76th rotation.
ESSENDON 3.3 6.5 11.5 16.6 (102)
SYDNEY 2.1 4.5 11.7 17.7 (109)
Essendon: Langford 3, Merrett 2, Stringer 2, Smith 2, Wright 2, Clarke, Cutler, Hind, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Shiel
Sydney: Papley 4, Parker 2, Franklin 2, Hayward 2, Blakey, Gulden, Hickey, Kennedy, Mills, Reid, Wicks
Essendon: Merrett, Parish, Stringer, Langford, Draper
Sydney: Mills, Parker, Papley, Dawson, Lloyd
Essendon: Laverde (right shoulder)
Essendon: Brayden Ham (replaced Laverde)
Sydney: Dylan Stephens (unused)