MELBOURNE has closed the gap on top spot with a big 41-point win over Essendon on Sunday afternoon.
In difficult conditions at Casey Fields, the Demons won 7.8 (50) to the Bombers' 1.3 (9) to firm up a place in the top two.
It seemed that moving the ball into the wind was near on impossible in the opening quarter as the Bombers simply could not get into their attacking half, but Melbourne disproved that early in the second. With the benefit of the home ground advantage, the Demons used run and carry to penetrate the invisible barrier as Karen Paxman neatly slotted her side's third goal of the game against the wind just two minutes into the second quarter.
Catherine Phillips followed up with the Bombers' only goal for the day, while Jess Wuetschner took an impressive diving mark soon after, which will no doubt be added to her already stacked highlights reel.
Three goals in the space of four minutes during the third quarter broke the game open on the scoreboard as Kate Hore and Alyssa Bannan flexed their muscles in the forward half.
Essendon's defence just couldn't keep up with the myriad of players in the Demons' attack, despite coach Natalie Wood opting to throw co-captain Bonnie Toogood behind the ball for the term.
Maddy Prespakis was dominant in the first half for the Bombers, with 16 disposals to half time, so Melbourne lockdown defender Shelley Heath was moved on to the star in the third quarter. Heath's speed and competitiveness proved a challenge for Prespakis, who finished the game with 23 disposals.
DEMONS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
The Demons' signature running handballs were on show, as elite midfielders like Tyla Hanks and Eliza West cleverly knocked the ball out in front of their supporting runners to keep the ball moving with speed and mounting the pressure on Essendon's under fire defence.
Karen Paxman starred in arguably her career-best game, finishing the day with 24 disposals, 406m gained and five inside 50s, while Alyssa Bannan showed her wheels on more than one occasion, sprinting down the wing and inside 50.
In defence Libby Birch and Tahlia Gillard combined for 15 intercepts and 481m gained as they made life difficult for Essendon all day.
Melbourne's push for the minor premiership has been aided by the big win, gaining 16.3 per cent to close the gap on Brisbane.
That Casey Fields wind
On one of the windier days seen in AFLW - and that's saying something for Casey Fields - every aerial ball became that much more difficult to navigate, and every disposal's potential to gain ground was halved. As the gale pushed the ball into the left forward pocket for the duration of the game, it was Melbourne's ability to score against the breeze that proved crucial. The Demons' experience was evident, as they chose to run the ball into attack when they were up against it to minimise any disruption.
Karen Paxman ain't slowing down
Karen Paxman has been playing a new role for Melbourne this year, spending more time outside the contest to generate run and carry while Eliza West and Olivia Purcell do the grunt work in the middle. That chemistry between outside movement and inside strength has taken Melbourne's drive through the middle of the ground to a new level. With her head still strapped from a head clash two weeks ago, the inaugural Demon tore it up in a best on ground performance.
Melbourne will close out its home and away season back at Casey on Saturday afternoon against West Coast as it aims to confirm its spot in the top two, while Essendon will finish its first AFLW season against fellow expansion side Port Adelaide at Alberton Oval on Sunday.
MELBOURNE 2.2 4.2 7.5 7.8 (50)
ESSENDON 0.0 1.3 1.3 1.3 (9)
Melbourne: Hore 3, Bannan 2, Paxman, Zanker
Melbourne: Paxman, Gillard, Heath, Birch
Essendon: Phillips, Prespakis, Vogt, Marshall
Crowd: TBC at Casey Fields