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Roos' comeback falls short as Dees win fiery AFL clash

Melbourne have lifted themselves back into the AFL's top eight by scrapping their way to a heart-stopping three-point victory over North Melbourne in a fiery encounter.

An all-in melee at halftime brought back memories of decades gone by as the Demons overcame a plucky opponent and a scoreless final term in winning 11.4 (70) to 10.7 (67) at the MCG on Saturday night.

A week after coughing up a 54-point lead in a loss to Collingwood, the Kangaroos cut a 39-point deficit back to three points with just under four minutes left but were unable to find a match-winning goal.

Melbourne's desperate defence got it done late, with a Judd McVee smother, debutant Kynan Brown's lunging tackle and Max Gawn's final clearance all helping to drag their side over the line.

The much-needed win shifted the Demons (8-6) back up to eighth place ahead of Sunday's games, after defeats in four of their previous five matches before the bye.

"It got tight and we were able to find enough winning moments late in the game to come up with a result, but for three quarters it started to look more like the way we want to play," Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said.

"It was certainly not perfect by any stretch, but it's heading there.

"We had to fight for everything we got tonight and we walk away with a win which we're really proud of and we'll keep forging ahead with our season."

North Melbourne's Harry Sheezel.
North young gun Harry Sheezel celebrates kicking a goal against the Demons at the MCG. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

North (1-13) remain anchored to the foot of the ladder despite improved form in three matches since their bye.

Cameron Zurhaar was huge for the Kangaroos, kicking three of their six unanswered goals in the late fightback and finishing with four majors.

Luke Davies-Uniacke (31 disposals), Harry Sheezel (27), Jy Simpkin (25) and George Wardlaw (23) were also influential in North's challenge.

Davies-Uniacke agonisingly had a late marking attempt slip through his fingers as the Kangaroos launched their final attack in the dying seconds.

Melbourne ball-winner Clayton Oliver (14 touches) was unable to shake a Will Phillips tag as Jack Viney (25 disposals, 12 clearances) stepped up in the engine room without injured star Christian Petracca.

Trent Rivers (21 touches) and Tom Sparrow (16, five clearances) also spent more time through the middle and were important at stages, while ruckman Gawn battled hard against Tristan Xerri and defender Steven May held Nick Larkey goalless.

Daniel Turner (two) was the Dees' only multiple goal-kicker, with scoreless Bayley Fritsch held to just six disposals by Jackson Archer.

Max Gawn of the Demons.
Max Gawn had 18 disposals in the Dees' win over North. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

There was controversy during the third quarter when May faced accusations of staging, having grabbed his head after being brought to ground in an Eddie Ford tackle.

May landed on his shoulder and appeared to drive his own head into the ground to win a free kick for a dangerous tackle.

Melbourne kicked five goals to one in the first term, led by 15 points at halftime and looked home when the margin ballooned to 39 points late in the third quarter.

But Zurhaar breathed life into the contest with goals either side of three-quarter time and the Kangaroos almost pulled off what would have been their second win of the season.

"I'm really pleased that we made a game of it in the end but disappointed that we didn't start the game as we would've liked," North coach Alastair Clarkson said.

"We had three quarters to try to chase them down and just wish there was a fifth quarter - we couldn't quite get there."