Two consecutive free kicks against controversial Perth defender Chris Billings opened the door for the South Fremantle victory that virtually guaranteed the Bulldogs would avoid the wooden spoon this season.
Billings was penalised for taking the ball deliberately out of bounds in South Fremantle's forward pocket early in the last quarter at Fremantle Oval yesterday with the Bulldogs leading the error-riddled match by just six points.
Ben Saunders converted the free kick and then was given another kick before the ball was returned to the centre after umpire Gareth Parker penalised Billings again for verbal abuse.
The controversial two-goal incident appeared to rob Perth of their resolve with South Fremantle strolling to the 24-point victory that moved them a win and percentage clear of last-placed Peel.
South Fremantle coach Paul Hasleby said the victory was a reward for his team's improved work ethic in recent weeks but he set his charges to lift again next week against East Fremantle.
While Billings was reported for rough conduct - the eighth time this season he has come under the notice of the match day officials for just two reprimands - Saunders' ability to escape the close-checking defender in the second half proved the most significant difference between the two lowly teams.
It was also one of the most eventful performances of a season in which Saunders has become the leading goal kicker with 59 majors.
He kicked 6.5 yesterday, had another shot go out of bounds and was reported in the first term for a late challenge on Perth's freewheeling Leon Davis.
Former Perth rover Chris Mitsopolous, who played in the Demons glory years in the mid 1970s, did not mince words as the Demons saw another potential victory evaporate.
"This is the dumbest football I have seen in a long while," the 103-match veteran exclaimed as Perth's indiscriminate forays into attack were easily rebuffed by South who won 16.12 (108) to12.12 (84).
No player was more influential that South ruckman Sean Tighe who had 26 hit-outs as well as a game-high eight inside-50 entries among his 24 disposals.
The first quarter was horrendous with each team only kicking one goal in near-perfect conditions.
Matters improved after the first break as both teams controlled the play for extended periods but neither proved able to break the game open.
It was not until the last term, with Saunders' two goals and others to Alex Grima and Shannon Burnett, that either team played with sufficient fluency to be confident of victory.
The performance of Davis was a microcosm of Perth's performance.
He did not have an opponent in the first term and racked up 10 disposals as the Demons threatened to dominate, was slowed by the close attention of Jarrad Winter in the second, and then was moved into a stopping role on the lively Jayden Woods whose three first-half goals kept his team in the contest.
Paul Mugambwa made a difference for the Bulldogs after Perth's West Coast duo Fraser McInnes and Simon Tunbridge produced a pair of fine majors to stretch the lead into double figures in the second term.
Ross Young kicked two goals in the third quarter to give Perth a 14-point advantage, but when Brennan Stack and Simon Donovan sprayed shots out on the full, the door was left ajar for South."This is the dumbest football I have seen in a long while."" Former Perth rover *Chris Mitsopolous *
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