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Pies prevail in ANZAC Day classic

Blair kicks the winner Jarryd Blair kicks the goal to seal the game.
Darren Jolly and Tom Bellchambers lock horns in the Anzac Day clash at the MCG

COLLINGWOOD has won its third consecutive Anzac Day clash over arch-rival Essendon, outlasting the Bombers by a point in a gripping contest at the MCG on Wednesday afternoon.

Inspired by ANZAC Medallist Dane Swan's 42 possessions and three goals, the Pies led at every change before surviving an incredible late comeback by Essendon to record a 11.14 (80) to 11.13 (79) victory.

Watch all the highlights from the thrilling win here.

Collingwood saw an 18-point lead early in the last quarter wiped out after Essendon kicked three consecutive goals, the third of them after a mark in the goalsquare by Alwyn Davey that levelled the scores inside the last four minutes.

Brent Stanton, who had been tagged out of the game by Martin Clarke, looked to have won the game for the Bombers when his snap with two minutes to go found the mark, but Jarryd Blair's soccered goal with 90 seconds to play proved the difference.

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Blair's kick from inside the goalsquare required a video review before being confirmed, and Essendon made several desperate forays into their attacking 50 before the siren sounded.

Essendon coach James Hird said he was proud of his players despite the Bombers' first loss for the season.

"I think we came up against a very good opposition … they're a terrific side and they came to play today, and at certain times played a lot better than us," Hird said.

The 18th head-to-head meeting between the teams on Anzac Day was a scrappy, hard-fought game where goals were initially hard to come by.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley said during the week it would take a big effort from all players to last the game, given both sides played just four days ago.

Recap all ANZAC Day Medal voting here.

After a first half where the tackling ferocity did not reflect 44 players who entered the game under physical duress, both sides were clearly exhausted as the game wore on.

Michael Hibberd, who was the Bombers' highest possession-getter in the first term, was subbed out minutes before quarter-time with a hamstring that is expected to sideline him for three weeks.

The Pies burned opportunities in the first quarter, recording 19 inside 50s for just two goals.

Goals remained hard to come by in the second after it took the Pies just four minutes for Travis Cloke to stretch their lead to 14 points with his first.

The Pies' backline remained on top until half-time, with Lachlan Keeffe and Nathan Brown standing strong against Patrick Ryder and Stuart Crameri.

Hear more from coach Nathan Buckley.

But it was Clarke who was arguably the Pies' most important player, and not for the times he collected the ball. 

Clarke had eight possessions to half time while Stanton - who has averaged 29 touches in the first four rounds - had two (13 for the game).   

The Bombers deployed Heath Hocking to Scott Pendlebury (34 touches) but the move wasn't as successful.

With Hocking occupied, Swan was largely free and had 42, with 32 of those to three-quarter time. He also had a remarkable 13 clearances.   

Buckley said Brown's performance was excellent on the back of two knee injuries.

"There were times when I reckon blokes around him, even though he stayed positive, that would have [thought], 'Gee, your knee's not looking great', or 'You're not moving that well'," Buckley said.

"He's stuck to his task. It was a great first-up reward for him and now there's work to do."

Collingwood    2.4    5.6    9.8    11.14 (80)
Essendon         1.3    3.6    7.8    11.13 (79)


GOALS
Collingwood: Cloke 3, Swan 3, Blair 2, Sidebottom, Jolly, Beams
Essendon: Davey 3, Zaharakis 2, Monfries, Hocking, Howlett, Lonergan, Dell'Olio, Stanton
 
BEST
Collingwood: Swan, Clarke, Pendlebury, Beams, Wellingham, Toovey
Essendon: Zaharakis, Heppell, Howlett, Dyson, Lonergan
 
INJURIES
Collingwood: Nil
Essendon: Hibberd (right hamstring)
 
SUBSTITUTES
Collingwood: Paul Seedsman replaced by Kirk Ugle in the fourth quarter.
Essendon: Michael Hibberd (right hamstring) replaced by Cory Dell'Olio in the first quarter.
 
Reports: Nil
 
Umpires: Donlon, Stevic, Meredith
 
Official crowd: 86,932 at the MCG

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the club.

Jennifer Witham is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow her on Twitter @AFL_JenWitham.