Fremantle did enough to beat a determined Carlton by 42 points at Domain Stadium and retain top spot on the AFL ladder but it was hardly enough to silence those doubting their premiership credentials.
The Dockers scored a 13.17 (95) to 8.5 (53) win, having kept Carlton scoreless in the final quarter, but they are still searching for the form that saw them win the first nine games of the season.
Kicking goals has been Fremantle’s problem of late but Chris Mayne stepped up to bag four on Saturday night while captain Matthew Pavlich booted two in three minutes early in the first quarter.
Lachie Neale racked up 31 possessions for Fremantle, David Mundy 30, Stephen Hill 28 and Danyle Pearce 24 while the back-line held up well led by Luke McPharlin, Alex Pearce, Lee Spurr and Garrick Ibbotson.
Aaron Sandilands had another 46 hit outs up against Matthew Kreuzer.
Usual Carlton defender Simon White was given the unenviable job of running with Fremantle’s Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe, but did keep him to 23 possessions, limiting the effectiveness of those.
Fremantle also lost antagonistic small forward Hayden Ballantyne to a shoulder injury in the first half.
Tom Bell kicked two terrific goals in the third quarter to keep the Blues in the contest and had 22 possessions for the match while Ed Curnow gathered 33 disposals, Marc Murphy 29, Sam Docherty 27 and Chris Yarran 25 in an intriguing battle with childhood friend Michael Walters.
Carlton got off to a flying start with the first two goals through Troy Menzel and Zac Tuohy, but Fremantle steadied with two from Pavlich, and then kicked the last three before quarter-time to lead by 18 points at the first break.
The Dockers couldn’t quite shake the Blues up until the last quarter with Fremantle leading by just 15 points at halftime and 21 at the final break, but then a spectacular Walters mark in the last quarter sparked the home side.
Sandilands and Walters kicked late goals to secure the 42-point win.