Dees dent Saints' AFL finals hopes

Michael Ramsey
Melbourne climb into the AFL's top eight with a hard-fought 24-point win over St Kilda at the MCG

Melbourne have boosted their AFL finals hopes and all but snuffed out St Kilda's, clinging on for a 24-point victory in an MCG thriller.

In a fierce battle between two sides desperate to remain in the hunt for a top-eight finish, the Demons dominated early and staved off the fast-finishing Saints for a 14.12 (96) to 10.12 (72) victory on Sunday.

The Dees led by 40 points late in the second quarter and looked set to claim an easy win.

But the Saints - helped by Jack Steven's eight disposals and three inside-50s - switched gears in the third term, cutting the margin to 10 points at the final break.

Tim Membrey brought the Saints within a goal when he slotted his second major early in the fourth quarter.

But Melbourne found a response through Mitch Hannan, who stepped up with the game on the line after a quiet start.

The young forward steadied his teammates' nerves with a sweetly-placed set shot, then moments later took a strong contested mark and kicked truly to put the result beyond doubt.

Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin praised his side's strong contested football late in the game.

"That was probably the thing that really steadied the ship for us," he said.

"We got back to what we're really good at."

The result lifts Melbourne into seventh spot on the ladder with winnable games against Brisbane and Collingwood to follow.

St Kilda's finals chances have been all but buried.

The 11th-placed Saints are a win and significant percentage behind eight-placed West Coast, with games against North Melbourne and Richmond to come.

It was one-way traffic early with the Dees cruising to a five-goal lead at quarter-time.

With no Jesse Hogan or Jack Watts, and Tom McDonald starting in the backline, small forward James Harmes did the damage, slotting three majors in the first quarter.

Melbourne's slick ball movement and ability to transition from the backline at high speed was in stark contrast to the fumbling Saints, who coughed up multiple goals from turnovers.

"It's as bad as I've seen us use the footy," Saints coach Alan Richardson said.

"Just some really fundamental errors - not necessarily a reflection of pressure from the opposition, just really easy stuff that we butchered, really."

Ruckman Max Gawn had a rare off day, being well beaten by Saints counterpart Billy Longer, but Nathan Jones (35 disposals) and Clayton Oliver controlled the midfield battle.

The Saints lost prime mover Koby Stevens to concussion after a first-quarter collision with Demons midfielder Angus Brayshaw, who was outstanding in his return game.