Bombers hold off Freo to keep season alive

Melissa Woods

Essendon have kept their slim hopes of an AFL finals berth alive while almost certainly ending Fremantle's with an ugly 29-point win in their AFL clash.

The Bombers remain in touch with the top eight but didn't look deserving of a play-off berth for much of the Etihad Stadium match on Saturday as they escaped with a 13.21 (99) to 11.4 (70) victory.

The lead changed hands nine times before the Bombers banked their ninth win of the season, with Orazio Fantasia finishing with five goals.

The first half was one to forget even for the Essendon faithful.

They dominated Fremantle everywhere except on the scoreboard, managing only four goals from 32 inside 50s while kicking 11 behinds.

With in-form ruckman Sean Darcy a late withdrawal with a groin injury, the Dockers held an eight-point lead booting 7.1 (43) from their 17 inside 50s.

The Bombers' cause wasn't helped when they lost their main target inside 50, Shaun McKernan, early in the second quarter.

Essendon kept their finals hopes alive with a crucial win over Fremantle. Pic: Getty

McKernan clutched at his hamstring after a high leap and had to be assisted from the field by two trainers and looks set for a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

Essendon started the second half in better form, with goals to David Zaharakis and Fantasia.

But they couldn't shake the tenacious Dockers, who again regained the lead through veteran David Mundy.

The Bombers took a six point lead into the final term and after three behinds, Mitch Brown found the target to open up their biggest lead of the match at 10 points.

It looked as if they had the running but Fremantle forward Cam McCarthy kicked true to keep his team in the hunt.

Goals to Devon Smith and David Myers then gave Essendon some breathing space before Fantasia deservedly iced the win.