Gisborne is 8-0 for the first time in 15 years after it wore down BFNL rival Golden Square by 15 points on Saturday.
The hard-fought victory consolidated top spot for Gisborne and the Dogs and second-placed Strathfieldsaye (7-1), who thrashed Kangaroo Flat by 159 points on Saturday, appear to have a mortgage on two of the all important double-chance spots for the finals, even though only eight rounds have been completed.
However, the race for the other three places in the top five looks set to go down to the wire.
Golden Square, Eaglehawk and Kyneton all have 5-3 records and round out the top five.
Eaglehawk survived a huge scare against lowly Castlemaine on Saturday, while Kyneton, who edged out Sandhurst by 11 points in round eight, is the team that the top sides are watching carefully.
South Bendigo (4-4) retained sixth place on the back of its 51-point win over Maryborough, while Sandhurst (3-5) is a further game back, but by no means out of the race.
The battle of the Bulldogs at Gardiner Reserve was highly anticipated and, despite the heavy conditions, it lived up to expectations.
In a game that had multiple momentum swings, Gisborne kicked the final three goals of the match to win 11.11 (77) to 8.14 (62).
"We weren't great early, we couldn't get our hands on the footy,'' Gisborne coach Rob Waters said.
"We were in trouble, but the boys worked really hard to get back into the game.
"It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a good win against a high quality opponent. It could have gone either way...it was a flip of the coin job, really.
"When you play good teams like Golden Square all that matters is your in front at the final siren."
Golden Square was left to lament a missed opportunity.
Square dominated the first term and could have had Gisborne on the ropes.
However, they only managed 3.7 and one out of bounds on the full to leave the door for Gisborne.
Instead of being five or six goals behind, the home side trailed by just 18 points and that margin evaporated within the first nine minutes of the second quarter.
When Matt Merrett snapped his second goal of the term at the 13-minute mark, remarkably Gisborne had hit the front.
The elusive Josh Kemp earned a free kick and slotted through his second goal to give Gisborne six unanswered goals and a 14-point lead.
Read more: Kyneton overruns Sandhurst in grand battle
Read more: The play that saved the day for Eaglehawk
Square broke its goal drought late in the second quarter via a Ricky Monti free kick to cut the margin to seven points at half-time.
The first half of the third term was much like the first quarter - Square dominated field position, but missed some crucial shots at goal.
Square kicked 2.3 to no score in the first 11 minutes of the third term to grab an eight-point lead.
Under pressure, Gisborne showed great tenacity to again work its way back into the game.
A clever snap from Matt Panuccio sparked Gisborne and a short time later Square turned the ball over in the middle of the ground which led to Luke Ellings kicking his first goal of the game.
Gisborne looked like taking the lead into the final quarter, but a kick across defensive goal from Sam Graham was intercepted by Square's Liam Barrett, who calmly slotted home a goal to put the visitors back on top by two points at the last change.
Gisborne opened the final quarter strongly, but its first three scoring shots, inside the first five minutes of the term, were all behinds.
The behinds gave Gisborne a one-point lead and the score stayed that way for eight minutes as both teams struggled to find scoring options in the heavy conditions.
You could sense it was going to take some individual brilliance to break the game open and two of the best players in the competition stood up.
First, Square forward Joel Brett, who was the main offender in terms of Square's wayward kicking, soccered through a goal to regain the lead for his side.
At the 16-minute mark, Gisborne midfielder Brad Bernacki picked up a loose ball as if it was a dry day and fired a great handball to Flynn Lakey, who ran into an open goal.
Lakey's major proved to be the last time the lead would change hands.
Square struggled to get its hands on the ball in the final eight minutes and, the few times it did go forward, Gisborne's defence stood up superbly.
The home side put the game to bed with two goals in time-on.
A clearance from Ellings on the wing sailed over the top of the Square defence and Kemp ran on to the loose ball and kicked truly.
A short time later Panuccio earned a free kick 20m out and kicked the sealer.
"We've been starting games okay, but we made a big focus on starting well this week,'' Golden Square coach Chris Carter said.
"We had to be in the contest early, particularly against Gisborne at Gisborne.
"I thought we started extremely well, but didn't capitalise on it. I think we kicked 3.7 in the first quarter and a few of the shots we missed were gettable.
"We kick those goals and it could have been game over at quarter-time, particularly in those conditions.
"Gisborne were sensational in the way they worked themselves back into the game.
"You can't give those guys chances. You have to put them under scoreboard pressure and take your opportunities when they come.
"We didn't do that today, unfortunately."
TALE OF THE TAPE
Disposals: Gisborne 310, Golden Square 244.
Marks: Gisborne 44, Golden Square 43.
Inside 50s: Gisborne 56, Golden Square 46.
Clearances: Gisborne 53, Golden Square 39.
Free kicks: Gisborne 31, Golden Square 40.
Gisborne - Brad Bernacki 32, Liam Spear 23, Luke Ellings 23, Matt Merrett 22, Sam Graham 21.
Golden Square - Terry Reeves 22, Liam Barrett 19, Jack Geary 19, Jack Hickman 18.
Gisborne 1.1 6.5 8.6 11.11 (77)
Golden Square 3.7 4.10 7.14 8.14 (62)
GOALS: Gisborne: J.Kemp 3, M.Merrett 2, M.Panuccio 2, F.Lakey 1, S.Bell-Bartels 1, L.Ellings 1, P.McKenna 1. Golden Square: J.Brett 3, H.Morcom 1, J.Thrum 1, R.Monti 1, L.Barrett 1, B.Vaz 1
BEST: Gisborne: B.Blake, J.Owen, M.Panuccio, B.Bernacki, J.Normington, L.Rodgers;. Golden Square: L.Barrett, J.Coe, H.Morcom, J.Hickman, J.Geary, J.Fitzpatrick.
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