CARLTON has delivered Melbourne's second defeat of the year and strengthened its finals hopes at the same time in a crucial result at Alice Springs' Traeger Park.
The Blues did little more than hang in the contest in the opening half but dominated from the restart, keeping the Demons goalless after the break to post a 6.4 (40) to 3.6 (24) triumph.
They climbed into second spot in Conference B in the process, after Collingwood briefly leapfrogged them courtesy of its impressive victory over Brisbane earlier on Saturday.
Melbourne is also still in the top three, but the loss was a body blow with two rounds to go, particularly knowing how agonisingly short they've fallen in previous seasons.
Reigning NAB AFLW Rising Star Madison Prespakis was outstanding and arguably the best player afield, gathering 23 disposals and kicking a 40m goal on the run early in the final term.
Prespakis and the creative Chloe Dalton were excellent even when their teammates weren't but Carlton came to life once the likes of Lucy McEvoy, Tayla Harris, Georgia Gee and Grace Egan rose to the occasion.
Natalie Plane, Gabriella Pound and Vaomua Laloifi were other strong performers as the Blues improved to a 5-1 record.
The Demons should have been further in front than eight points at half-time, amassing double as many inside 50s (15-8) and uncontested possessions (73-36).
Karen Paxman won a match-high 27 possessions and Kate Hore exploded out of the blocks with nine of her 19 touches by quarter-time, including a goal of the year contender.
Melbourne will also rue a number of wasted opportunities in front of goal in the third quarter, with none of Aliesha Newman, Tegan Cunningham, Maddison Gay and Elise O'Dea capitalising.
MELBOURNE 2.3 3.3 3.5 3.6 (24)
CARLTON 1.1 2.1 4.1 6.4 (40)
Melbourne: Hore, Perkins, Scott
Carlton: Walker 2, Gee, Harris, Egan, Prespakis
Melbourne: Paxman, Hore, Gay, Sherriff, O'Dea, Pearce
Carlton: Prespakis, Dalton, Plane, McEvoy, Harris, Laloifi
Melbourne: Lampard (left knee)
Umpires: Bailes, Porter, Toner
Crowd: TBC at Traeger Park