Hawthorn keep finding a way, overcoming a fierce challenge from an undermanned North Melbourne to win their pulsating AFL match by nine points.
The 14.9 (93) to 11.18 (84) win on Friday night at Etihad Stadium was the fourth times this season the Hawks have prevailed by fewer than 10 points.
James Sicily kicked a career-high five goals for the Hawks, while Cyril Rioli and Jordan Lewis were outstanding as Daniel Wells and Robbie Tarrant starred for North.
The Kangaroos twice reduced the margin to less than a goal in the last quarter, and Paul Puopolo kicked a goal in the last 30 seconds from a free kick to seal the result.
North started this weekend one game clear on top spot ahead of four teams, with the Hawks fifth.
For all their lack of top form, the three-time defending premiers keep winning when it counts.
North were left ruing a big lost opportunity on Friday night and have now been defeated by Sydney, Geelong and Hawthorn – all fellow top-four contenders – in the past month.
Given the history between the teams, it came as no surprise this was a fiery clash.
Last season, Lewis and his captain Luke Hodge were suspended for big hits as their team belted North by 10 goals.
On Friday night, the Kangaroos made it clear from the start they would not be intimidated.
This match will keep the match review panel busy on Monday – the first half in particular was strewn with spot fires.
Players scuffled at quarter-time and there were words exchanged at each break.
While Hawks are renowned for playing “unsociable” football in these sorts of big matches, North rattled them early.
The Kangaroos kicked three of the first four goals, enjoyed a 13-3 free kick count and should have been much further ahead at quarter time.
But they blew their big chance and at halftime led by only two points with a wasteful 4-11.
Their rash of injuries continued as Luke McDonald suffered a hamstring injury in the second term.
Wells was easily best afield before he hobbled off in the second term with a sore ankle.
He was able to play out the game but was not as prominent.
North lost four players to injuries in last week’s loss to Geelong – captain Andrew Swallow (concussion), fellow onballer Ben Cunnington (quad), forward Jarrad Waite (hip) and Robbie Nahas (finger).
MORE TO COME