Gisborne won its fourth-straight match and moved a step closer to securing the double-chance when it defeated Sandhurst by 26 points at Gardiner Reserve on Saturday.
With such a gulf between the top five clubs and the bottom five clubs, games involving two top-five teams are worth their weight in gold and it was the Bulldogs who prevailed in a hard-fought contest, 14.20 (104) to 12.6 (78).
The Dragons were within two goals of Gisborne with 10 minutes remaining in the match, but the home side steadied to grab the points.
The win gave the second-placed Bulldogs a vital two-game buffer on Eaglehawk and Sandhurst in fourth and fifth respectively.
"We had a lot of missed chances accuracy wise, but I thought we played well,'' Gisborne coach Clinton Young said.
"It was a closely fought game and the margin was never great.
"Sandhurst really took it to us in the last quarter, but our boys really responded well to get the win.
"We're very pleased to get away with the points."
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Sandhurst coach Ashley Connick was proud of the way his side performed.
"We just need to clean up a bit of our ball use,'' Connick said.
"It was game on with 10 minutes to go, but we missed a couple of half chances and they made the most of a couple of chances.
"It was a finals-like intensity and a really tough game of footy.
"We're disappointed with the result, but really happy with the way we're tracking at the moment."
For the second week in a row Gisborne failed to make the most of their scoring opportunities.
After kicking 17.23 in the win over Eaglehawk, the Bulldogs could only manage 14 goals from 34 scoring shots against the Dragons.
"It's not as if we're missing basic set shots, but it's something we can work on,'' Young said.
"If we can change the conversion rate of the past two weeks into a positive then we'll be better for it."
Forward Pat McKenna was at his brilliant best for the Bulldogs, kicking eight goals to take his season tally to 41.
Midfielders Ethan Minns and Matt Goodyear were superb, while Tim Walsh was solid down back.
"It's great to have Ethan (Minns) back,'' Young said of last year's runner-up in the club best and fairest.
"He missed a large chunk of the pre-season, but he's back up and going now.
"Jimmy Ferry missed the first few games as well, so to have both of them slot back into the team and be solid contributors has been really good for us."
For the Dragons, Chris Down rucked tirelessly all day and produced his best game for the club.
"We lost our two back-up ruckmen last week... so Chris was in the ruck all day and worked really hard,'' Connick said.
Defender Jake Pallpratt and midfielder Nick Stagg led from the front, while key forward Matt Thornton kicked five goals.
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