MELBOURNE has kept itself at least one game clear at the top of the ladder after defeating Essendon 9.14 (68) to 8.9 (57) at the MCG on Saturday night.

The Bombers took the game up to the league's pacesetters early and led in the shadows of half-time, but four successive goals to the Demons established a gap that wouldn't be bridged.

Christian Petracca was Melbourne's best with 26 disposals and two goals, while James Jordon continued his impressive season, racking up (albeit short) career-high numbers and also slotting two goals.

Jake Stringer again looked like being Essendon's fire starter and went to the long break with 14 disposals and a goal, but his output and influence diminished significantly in the third quarter when needed most.

Zach Merrett (41 disposals) and Darcy Parish (37) did all they could to turn the game their side's way.

More to come

ESSENDON      2.3    4.5    6.7     8.9 (57)
MELBOURNE   1.5    4.8    8.12    9.14 (68)

Essendon: Jones 2, Wright 2, Heppell, Hooker, Smith, Stringer
Melbourne: Jordan 2, Petracca 2, Harmes, Jackson, McDonald, Spargo, Sparrow