In a strange twist, Essendon might lose despite their third win of the AFL season.
The Bombers are in danger of surrendering the No.1 draft pick following their 24-point triumph over Carlton on Saturday afternoon at the MCG.
The 15.13 (103) to 10.19 (79) victory will haul the depleted Bombers off the bottom of the ladder, if Brisbane or Fremantle suffer heavy losses on Sunday against St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs respectively, in their final-round clashes.
Essendon would surely prefer the collective confidence from their performance going into the off-season, rather than the top draft choice after such a compromised year, in which they have missed 12 of their senior players through bans over the club’s supplements saga.
The Bombers must have salivated at the glimpse into the future with several outstanding efforts – such as Joe Daniher booting five goals, second-year forward Kyle Langford bagging three and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti chiming in with four during the second-half domination.
Carlton’s counterparts proved mostly ineffective, with only Matthew Kreuzer’s marking strength posing problems up forward, while other tall targets Levi Casbout and Liam Jones were beaten comprehensively.
A burst of goals from Matthew Wright, Sam Docherty and Dennis Armfield early in the final quarter was the only Blues’ challenge to pull back within 26 points, but a hurried snapshot for a goal from Bomber ruckman Shaun McKernan stopped the run and restored control.
After an even opening quarter, Essendon were poised to take charge when Daniher led a goal blitz that established a 32-point buffer midway through the second term.
Just when the contest seemed to be slipping out of reach, the Blues hit back with goals from Wright, Kreuzer and Sam Kerridge before Daniher booted his third goal for the second quarter to give the Bombers a 19-point halftime lead.
A six goals-to-one third quarter from Essendon sealed the deal by the three-quarter-time break.