ROYAL Park moved a step closer to a long-awaited finals berth after defeating Talbot by three points in a Maryborough-Castlemaine District Football League thriller on Saturday.
In a low-scoring clash at Talbot, Bushy edged the Hawks out 6.5 (41) to 5.8 (38) in a win that improved the perennial battlers to 7-2 as they chase their first finals berth since 2006.
Royal Park held off a surge in the last quarter from Talbot, which had trailed by 13 points at the final change.
Taylor Stewart and Trent Pye continued their good seasons to be the best for Royal Park, while Dylan McLean and Jacob Cahill (three goals) also played well.
Talbot - which dropped out of the top eight - had good players in Trent Barras (two goals), Josh Sullivan, Boe Gilmour and Karl Gunther.
The game was the second thriller in a row the two sides have played against each other after Talbot beat Royal Park by one goal last year.
• Lexton was again at its defensive best as it comfortably accounted for Natte Bealiba by 38 points in the match of the round.
A week after holding Trentham to one goal, the Tigers conceded just two against the Swans as they prevailed 7.13 (55) to 2.5 (17) to notch their eighth win in a row.
No Lexton details were supplied, while the best for the Swans - who were scoreless in the first quarter - included Nathan Ross, Dean Graco and Brent Mortlock.
Zac Perez kicked both the Swans' goals - one in the first quarter and one in the last.
• A nine-goal haul from Liam Cunningham helped Carisbrook to its fourth win in a row.
With recruit Cunningham starring up forward, the Redbacks downed Rovers by 65 points, 17.14 (116) to 7.9 (51).
As well as Cunningham's leading role, the Redbacks were also well served by Jonathon Gray, the consistent Jackson Bowen, Nichlos Wright and Nathan O'Keefe.
Better players for Rovers - who shaved 171 points off their losing margin against Carisbrook from last year - included Brohdie Smyth (two goals), Christopher Gunn, Bradley Fraser and Tristan Knights.
• Harcourt is back in the top eight following a 27-point win over Trentham.
The Lions led by just two points at half-time, before kicking seven goals to three after the main break to win 9.9 (63) to 5.6 (36).
Former coach Daniel Smith was the difference between the two sides, booting five goals for the Lions on a day where just 14 were kicked for the match.
Tim Faliszewski, Brendan Josey and Sam Gale also played well for the Lions in their fourth win.
Trentham has now lost six games in a row. Justin Hoffman, Scott Witmitz and James Wicker led the better players for the Saints.
• Navarre maintained its unbeaten record, while keeping Maldon winless in their top versus bottom clash.
The Grasshoppers won by 69 points, 15.6 (96) to 4.3 (27), in what was a game they had well in control at half-time when they were already 60 points up.
However, the Bombers competed much better after half-time to only be outscored by a further nine points by the flag favourites.
Brent Flood, Sam Kaye and Zach Parry were the pick of the players for the Grasshoppers, who had Aaron Slorach kick four goals.
Christopher Milham, Damien Gatti and Nicholas McKnight were solid players for the Bombers. Kyle Winstanley kicked two of their four goals.
• On Sunday in the battle of two teams chasing their first wins of the season, it was Avoca that prevailed by a goal over Dunolly.
The Bulldogs led at every change on the way to a 9.11 (65) to 8.11 (59) win.
• And Newstead bounced back from its first loss of the season to defeat Campbells Creek by 22 points.
The Steaders won 8.11 (59) to 5.7 (37) at home.