THE top four sides in the Heathcote District Football League stamped their authority on Saturday with wins in round 11.
Lockington-Bamawm United, North Bendigo, Leitchville-Gunbower and Mount Pleasant remain separated by just one game from first to fourth after Saturday's results.
But there's now a two-game gap from fourth-placed Mount Pleasant to White Hills in fifth after the Blues defeated the Demons by 25 points at Toolleen.
The Blues dealt a massive blow to White Hills' top-three hopes with their 14.12 (96) to 10.11 (71) victory.
Mount Pleasant gradually increased its lead throughout the game as it was constantly able to hold the Demons at bay.
The Blues were consistent in their scoring, kicking 3.3 in each of the first three quarters, before finishing with 5.3 in the last.
"White Hills is a very under-rated side, so we're obviously very happy to have gotten over the top of them today," Mount Pleasant coach Derrick Filo said.
"There wasn't much between the two teams and the endeavour from both sides was outstanding.
"At crucial times we were able to kick that important goal to just give us that bit of breathing space."
Centre half-back Tim Hill again proved how valuable an acquisition he is to the Blues by being named their best player as his red-hot season continued.
"He has had an outstanding season for us and was great again today," Filo said.
Also impressing again for the Blues was young onballer Koe Ngawati (two goals), who continued his strong patch of form.
James Walsh, Kain Robins (three goals), Taig Griffin and Brenton O'Connell also figured among the best for the Blues as they improved to 7-3 - already their most wins in a season since they last played finals in 2008.
While Hills has now dropped two games in a row since its much-hyped victory over Lockington-Bamawm United a fortnight ago.
Ricky Symes kicked three goals for the Demons, who had Tom Kerrins, Matt Lehane, Jason Curtain and Hayden Wright work hard.
• The North Bendigo juggernaut rolled on as the Bulldogs downed Huntly by 68 points at home to win their seventh game in a row.
The Bulldogs jumped the Hawks, racing to a 34-point lead at quarter-time and extending that to 69 points by half-time on the way to a 20.14 (134) to 9.12 (66) victory.
"We were very happy with our first three quarters, but we dropped off in the last and they outscored us, which was disappointing," North Bendigo co-coach Rob Bennett said.
"For the first three quarters the boys were really good with what we've prided ourselves on this year with our pressure acts and contested footy."
Veteran Damien Webb starred for the Bulldogs with a bag of six goals, while Jeremy Mills added four.
Yet again, a feature of the Bulldogs was their vast array of goalkickers, with 10.
That's now six of the Bulldogs' seven wins in a row where they've had at least 10 goalkickers in a game.
Along with Webb and Mills, ruckman Tony Plim and the consistent Craig brothers - Ash and Aarryn - were influential on the contest.
The loss was Huntly's fourth in a row and keeps last year's grand finalists two games outside the top five.
The Hawks kicked five of their nine goals in the last quarter.
Earlier, the Hawks had just 2.4 on the board at half-time as their struggles to put early scoreboard pressure on continued.
In their past three games, the Hawks have had scores of just 16, 14 and 13 on the board at half-time.
"In the first half North Bendigo taught us a lesson, especially when it comes to spread and how to counter-attack from turnovers," Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"We could have rolled over at half-time and the score could have really blown out, but we stayed positive, addressed a few areas and fought it out until the end."
Captain Braidy Dickens, James Blood, Matt Klein-Breteler (three goals) and Luke Price were valiant for the Hawks, who suffered the biggest loss during Fiske's 47-game tenure as coach.
Highlighting the contrasting directions the two clubs have taken this season with North Bendigo on the up and Huntly on the slide, the Bulldogs have beaten the Hawks twice this year by 30 and 59 points.
When they met twice in the finals last year, the Hawks pummelled the Bulldogs by 52 and 66 points.
• After no more than two points separated the sides at the first three breaks, Leitchville-Gunbower broke away from Colbinabbin to win by 21 points at Gunbower.
The Bombers led by one point at three quarter-time before finishing with 3.6 to 0.4 in the final term to win 11.15 (81) to 8.12 (60).
The win keeps the Bombers sitting in third position, with Steve Pretty, Jake Truefeldt (two goals), Jye Keath and Cameron Ross impressing.
The defeat was the Grasshoppers' second in a row and leaves them with a 4-6 record, but with White Hills losing to Mount Pleasant, they remain within one game of the top five.
"It was a really tight contest for three quarters, but in that last quarter our awareness of the opposition dropped off and we just weren't accountable enough," Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.
"We lost Tim Holobowski to a rib injury in the first quarter, which put us back a bit, but that wasn't the difference between us winning and losing.
"Leitchville was really good on the spread and we just weren't accountable enough when the ball was going the other way, so that's something we need to keep working on."
Teenager Jeremy Morgan was a shining light for the Grasshoppers to be their best player.
Tim O'Dwyer, who has had a superb past month, Tim Hill and Hadleigh Sirett (two goals) also stood out for the Grasshoppers.
Colbinabbin's Linton Jacobs was the leading goalkicker on the ground with three.
• Lockington-Bamawm United returned to its familiar position at the top of the ladder.
The Cats handed Heathcote its fourth loss of the season by more than 100 points, winning 20.16 (136) to 4.5 (29) at home.
The Cats held the Saints scoreless in the first quarter and goalless in the third in what was their biggest win over Heathcote in their 29 meetings since joining the HDFL in 2001.
"We got off to a good start and were able to put a bit of pressure on them early," Cats coach Adrian Dohnt said.
"It was a good consistent effort over four quarters."
Marcus Angove, Dohnt and in-form big man Chris Hudson led the better players for the Cats, while Matthew Deledio outscored Heathcote off his own boot, kicking six goals.
Equally as pleasing as the win for Dohnt was the Cats - who have 17 players out across their seniors and reserves - got through the game unscathed.
On a tough day for the Saints, who were coming off their first win of the season the previous week, they had solid players in Daniel Carroll, Kyle Seidel and Bradley Morgan (two goals).