The pressure will rise at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
The AFL ladder dictates as much for eight-placed North Melbourne and seventh-placed Western Bulldogs.
Both sides are also desperate to make life uncomfortable for the opposition, highlighting it as a key to victory in their round-20 clash.
“In the first nine rounds (during an undefeated streak) our pressure was exceptional,” North’s Jamie Macmillan said before his 100th match.
“It probably dropped away a little bit.
“The last couple of weeks we’re probably back to our best … that correlates with victories.
“The Bulldogs move the footy as well as anyone … to stop them we need to stop their run.”
Bulldogs rebounding defender Jason Johannisen suggested the calmer team under pressure would triumph, referencing a low-scoring scrap between the sides in round six.
“It was 61 to 45, so both teams’ defences were really strong,” Johannisen said.
“Our hunt and pressure was pretty good (in a last-start loss to Geelong). It was a pretty bruising game.
“But we struggled to take our opportunities.”
The Bulldogs have recalled defenders Matthew Boyd and Dale Morris for the match, with Johannisen pleased to have two mentors back in the side.
“The old dogs are going to help … their on-field leadership is crucial to how we play, they help set the ground up,” he said.
Midfielders Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae, the latest injury concerns in the Bulldogs’ luckless season, were enforced omissions.
“As a team we’re ready to show our depth. We’ve done so all year and this is just another challenge,” Johannisen said.
Johannisen and Macmillan acknowledged the importance of the game, with four rounds remaining before September and seven sides sitting on either 12 or 13 wins.
It’s the start of a challenging run to the finals for North, who will face Hawthorn, Sydney and Greater Western Sydney.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve played eighth versus ninth, eighth versus ninth. Now we’re seventh against eighth,” Macmillan said.
“We’re no stranger to it.
“It’s another massive game for us … basically they’re all eight-point games for us from here on in.”
Macmillan was upbeat key forward Jarrad Waite, who underwent hip surgery this week, would be fit by September.
“He’s walking around really well … he’ll work really hard,” he said.