Defending premiers Hawthorn moved a step closer to a third consecutive grand final appearance with a 36-point win in a high-pressure qualifying final against Geelong on Friday night.
Geelong surged late in the second term to level the scores at 6.5 (41) each at halftime.
But the Hawks kicked nine goals to the Cats’ four in the second half to win 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) in front of a crowd of over 74,000 at the MCG.
Jordan Lewis and Jack Gunston kicked three goals each and Sam Mitchell and Bradley Hill were outstanding in midfield for the Hawks, who advance to the preliminary final in two weeks’ time.
Geelong, who were superbly led by tireless skipper Joel Selwood, will face the winner of Saturday night’s North Melbourne-Essendon elimination final next weekend in a knockout clash.
The Cats started the game full of running and kicked the first two goals of the game with Steve Johnson dominant. However playmaker Sam Mitchell had an impact for the Hawks who scored the last three goals of the first term to lead 3.4 (22) to 2.1 (13) at quarter-time.
The Cats kicked four goals in the second term including Josh Walker’s 51-metre effort after the siren to level the scores at halftime.
Gunston kicked two of Hawthorn’s four goals in the third term and the Hawks went to three-quarter time with a 14-point advantage, 10.8 (68) to 8.6 (54).
Luke Breust’s goal early in the final term put the Hawks ahead by 20 points but Mark Blicavs responded with a goal for the Cats at the 11-minute mark.
With less than eight minutes left on the clock, Jarryd Roughead weaved one through from the boundary as the Hawks went 22 points clear.
Lewis put an exclamation point on the win with two last-quarter goals, prompting a fist-pumping celebration from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson.
Hawthorn kicked clear with a five-goal last term to Geelong’s two.
Geelong coach Chris Scott revealed star forward/midfielder Steve Johnson is in doubt for next week’s sudden-death semi-final with an ongoing foot problem.
Johnson missed the last three rounds of the home-and-away season and returned on Friday night, picking up 17 disposals including nine in the first term.
Scott said Johnson had been cleared to play by the club’s medical staff but struggled to get through the game and was now in doubt for next week.
“That foot’s going to be a problem for us,” Scott said.
“He struggled through the night with that issue … he was sore.”
Geelong skipper Selwood’s 31 disposals included a game-high nine clearances.
Hawthorn’s 2013 Norm Smith Medallist Brian Lake completed another superb shut-down role, holding Geelong’s spearhead Tom Hawkins to seven possessions and one goal.
“He was pretty good tonight. He reads the ball in flight so well off the opposition’s kick,” Clarkson said.
The Hawks dominated possession and also led the tackles 81-59.
“To put real pressure on the Geelong ball-carriers is just crucial for us,” Clarkson said.
“We were able to turn the ball over and give ourselves a chance in the middle of the ground.”
Wingman Bradley Hill (27 disposals including 18 in the first half) was one of about a dozen key contributors for the Hawks but Mitchell, with a game-high 36 touches, was a stand-out.
“We’ve got a good running group and a good balance of inside and outside players,” Clarkson said.