Melbourne have passed a massive test, blunting Hawthorn’s last quarter surge to win their AFL semi-final by 33 points.
The 16.8 (104) to 10.11 (71) win on Friday night at the MCG puts the Demons into their first preliminary final since 2000.
They will play West Coast next Saturday afternoon at Optus Stadium, a month after they had a crucial round-22 win over the Eagles at the same venue.
“I was pretty confident. We’ve been putting in some strong foundations, I don’t think age has got anything to do with it,” co-captain Nathan Jones said.
Just as the Western Bulldogs roared from an elimination final to win their drought-breaking premiership two years ago, the Demons are now on a roll.
Melbourne fans were celebrating at three-quarter time when their team led by 32 points, but the Hawks were not done.
Hawthorn kicked three goals in 11 minutes at the start of the last quarter to put serious heat on Melbourne.
The big question mark over the Demons going into their first finals series for 12 years was whether they could stand up under pressure.
They answered emphatically, kicking four of the last five goals.
Demons key forward Tom McDonald starred with four goals and Jake Melksham had an outstanding last quarter, kicking two goals.
It is the second time in three years the Hawks have gone out of the finals in straight sets, but they are far better placed than two years ago.
After missing the finals last year, the Hawks have regenerated quickly to make the top four.
Defender Neville Jetta was outstanding for the Demons and co-captain Jack Viney was strong again in the midfield.
The Hawks, missing key players Jaeger O’Meara and Ben Stratton through injury, were left to rue some crucial missed shots on goal through the second and third quarters.
Hawthorn sharp shooter Jack Gunston kicked three goals, but he hit the post in the third quarter with a kick he normally would nail.
Melbourne shot up the other end and kicked the first of three goals at the end of the third quarter that blew out the margin.
Had Gunston goaled, Hawthorn only would have trailed by nine points.
Scores were level at the first break and the Hawks looked more dominant in the second term.
But as they did early in last week’s qualifying final loss to Richmond, they missed crucial shots on goal.
Hawthorn kicked 0.6 in the second quarter and Melbourne kicked three goals to take a 13-point lead at the main break.
At half time, it was telling that Hawthorn led the inside 50s 30-23.
Hawks onballer Tom Mitchell had a game-high 34 disposals and 10 tackles, while Gunston finished with 3.5.