Ross Lyon's new-look St Kilda have celebrated the club's 150th anniversary in style and maintained their unbeaten start to the AFL season with a tough 18-point win over Essendon.
Jack Higgins and Dan Butler kicked four goals each for the Saints, whose blistering opening and ferocious finish were features of the 14.8 (92) to 11.8 (74) victory at the MCG on Saturday.
But there were some nervous moments in the final term when the Bombers drew level - having trailed by 34 points early in the match - before St Kilda steadied with a five-goal burst to put the result to bed.
It came at a cost, with the undermanned Saints losing Jimmy Webster to a suspected fractured cheekbone and Mason Wood nursing a shoulder injury.
St Kilda champions Tony Lockett, Ian Stewart, Ross Smith, Barry Breen and Nicky Winmar were among the past greats on hand to help celebrate the club's milestone among a 69,251-strong crowd.
The faithful who turned up got their money's worth as witnesses to a rollercoaster ride of a contest.
"There's a bit of anxiety (on such a big night) ... we wanted to make the most of it," Lyon said.
"We tried not to get caught up in the week because there was a lot of honouring of past champions and moments within the club.
"But our responsibility was to bring great effort tonight that, win or lose, our members and fans and everyone connected to the club would be proud of.
"I was confident we would do that."
Callum Wilkie stood up in defence for St Kilda and Brad Crouch (31 disposals), Jack Sinclair (26), Seb Ross (24), Jade Gresham (23) and Wood (27) were all strong contributors.
The Saints kicked the opening five goals of the match in the first 18 minutes and booted another five in just 12 minutes during the final term, putting Essendon to the sword.
"There were two periods where they got on a roll and kicked 10 of their 14 goals in a short space of time," Bombers coach Brad Scott said.
"We were really badly beaten in the contest early and Wilkie was just really dominant early.
"We arrested that and made some changes, both in terms of personnel but also in our general fight and willingness to compete.
"But if you give a side like St Kilda that defend very well a 34-point head start, it's going to be hard to peg them back.
"It was a disappointing start but I'm really pleased with the fight and the effort to turn it around."
Nic Martin (27 disposals) was among the Bombers' best and Darcy Parish racked up 34 touches, with Jye Caldwell and Archie Perkins kicking two goals each.
Explosive forward Jake Stringer had a quiet night on return from injury, kicking one goal from eight disposals.
As part of their 150th celebrations, St Kilda inducted former star players Leigh Montagna and Nick Dal Santo into the club's Hall of Fame.
Champion full-forward Bill Mohr was posthumously elevated to Saints 'Legend' status.
Australian Associated Press
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