Cyril Rioli kicked six goals as Hawthorn landed another blow in the fight for an AFL top-two berth with a classy 36-point win over Geelong at the MCG.
The Cats trailed by 29 points at three-quarter time and launched a late challenge but kicked the first four points of the final term before Luke Hodge kicked his fourth goal to seal the 19.7 (121) to 12.13 (85) win.
The enthralling encounter had all of the hallmarks of one of the great rivalries of the modern era but the Hawks played their best football for longer, while the Cats suffered some costly lapses.
With his typical mix of efficiency and flair, Rioli had four goals from just six kicks midway through the third term before adding another two in the last quarter.
Hawthorn had a greater spread of contributors, with Hodge important with 24 possessions, while Sam Mitchell (28 disposals), Liam Shiels (25) and Jordan Lewis (25) were also influential.
Steve Johnson provided an early highlight in his 250th AFL game with his side’s first goal from deep in the pocket but the Cats were left floundering in the face of a withering burst from the Hawks.
Hodge kicked three first-quarter goals, including a stunner from the boundary line, as Hawthorn sprinted out to a 31-point lead.
The Hawks appeared in ominous touch but, as has so often been the case when these sides meet, there were more twists in the tale to come.
Johnson was outstanding as Geelong lifted in the second term, with Corey Enright and Cam Guthrie important as the Cats slashed the margin to 15 points at halftime.
Darcy Lang made it nine points midway through the third quarter but, once again, the Hawks found another gear and the Cats couldn’t go with them as the margin blew out to 29 points.
The Hawks absorbed early pressure in the last quarter as Geelong challenged but Rioli caused the turnover that allowed Hodge to snuff out the resistance as his side notched its fourth win in a row against the Cats.
Geelong went into the match with the momentum of a four-game winning streak and Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson was delighted with the way his players were able to gain the upper hand early on.
“It was a game that we were really wary of in terms of us having to play some of our best footy,” he said.
“I thought the start was really important … to get some scoreboard leeway early in the game was important for us.”
Geelong coach Chris Scott lamented his side’s “average” first quarter but was pleased with the way the Cats, led by skipper Joel Selwood, fought their way back.
“We had a crazy chance (to win) in the last quarter but missed some easy shots,” he said.
“Some of the indicators were reasonably close. I thought the difference was their ability to control the ball under pressure and their ability to force us into error.”
Defender Tom Lonergan was a late withdrawal for Geelong through illness, while James Kelly suffered an ankle injury and was substituted out in the third quarter.