Fremantle are thrilled to lock in a breakthrough AFL finals berth but are far from satisfied after returning to form with a 17-point win over the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium.
Rory Lobb, who has been linked with an off-season move to the Bulldogs, was the game-breaker for the Dockers with four goals, all of them coming from long-range.
The Dockers burst clear with a four-goal-to-two second quarter, taking a 23-point lead at halftime, as the Bulldogs struggled to cut the margin to under three goals for the rest of Saturday's match.
Fremantle moved to 13-1-6 with their fifth win in Victoria this season, prevailing 14.11 (95) to 11.12 (78).
Justin Longmuir's team jumped back into fourth place but could be replaced by the Sydney Swans and the Brisbane Lions depending on Sunday's results.
The Bulldogs were favoured to take care of Fremantle, who drew to Richmond and lost to the Swans and Melbourne during the past three weeks.
But Fremantle recaptured the form that has allowed them to book a finals appearance for the first time since being minor premiers in 2015.
"I loved the way the players approached the week, knowing we hadn't put in a great performance last Friday night (against the Demons)," Longmuir said.
"I thought it was back to one of our more consistent performances of the season.
"It's a credit to the work we've put in (to be playing finals), the players should be proud of themselves but not satisfied."
The Dockers have struggled to score in the past month, but rediscovered their attacking flare as Lobb, Michael Frederick (three goals) and Matt Taberner got on top of the Bulldogs' defence.
Taberner started brightly with two first-quarter goals but the injury-prone forward was subbed off in the third term with a calf injury that could end his season.
It was a costly result for the Bulldogs, who will need to defeat GWS and Hawthorn in their final two games to be any chance of playing in the finals this year.
"It's an opportunity missed, we didn't have enough good players to be able to challenge Fremantle at all," Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.
"They were able to use the footy a lot better than we were there, the use of the Sherrin was really sub-par so we couldn't get any momentum."
Sam Darcy, the son of Bulldogs great Luke, made a solid AFL debut as he played in a defence desperate for tall players.
Aaron Naughton loomed large for the Bulldogs with three goals but young star Jamarra Ugle-Hagan had an off-day as his normally reliable set-shot kicking deserted him to finish with 0.3.
The Dockers will host battling West Coast in the Western Australia derby at Optus Stadium next Saturday night.
Australian Associated Press
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