Melbourne skipper Nathan Jones has steered the Demons to a come-from-behind 12-point win against a young Western Bulldogs side.
In his first game since recovering from off-season neck surgery, Jones gathered 21 possessions and kicked a late goal to put his side in front for good – 0.10.12 (72) to 1.7.9 (60) – in front of 4139 fans at Highgate Reserve in Craigieburn.
The Demons trailed for most of the day in blustery conditions, but overcame a three-goal three-quarter time deficit with the aid of a stiff breeze to record their second win of the NAB Challenge.
The Bulldogs fielded a very youthful lineup after kicking off their pre-season campaign with a win against GWS, with skipper Bob Murphy, Easton Wood, Luke Dahlhaus, Jake Stringer and Dale Morris among the host of first-team regulars absent.
Melbourne rested young gun Jesse Hogan but brought veterans Bernie Vince and Jones into a relatively strong lineup.
With that in mind, the Demons disappointed early as the Dogs dominated possession to lead by 19 points at the first break.
Lin Jong (22 possessions and a goal) and Nathan Hrovat (16 disposals and a goal) were among the younger Bulldogs to impress, while Tom Liberatore continued to make promising strides in his return from a serious knee injury.
Jack Watts was a pivotal player for the Demons as they fought back into the game and finished with 16 touches, 10 marks and three goals, while Max Gawn dominated the ruck with 46 hitouts.
Jack Viney led all players with a game-high 25 touches and Tomas Bugg (22 possessions) showed enough to suggest he could be an important off-season pick-up for the Dees.