Essendon remain right in the thick of the AFL top eight race after beating North Melbourne but coach Ben Rutten says the Bombers need to find greater consistency if they're to make a serious run at finals.
The Bombers were sluggish early against the Kangaroos then plagued by poor goalkicking before turning the game in their favour in the second half to prevail 13.14 (92) to 11.8 (74) at Metricon Stadium.
The result saw Essendon leap into the top eight - though West Coast and GWS could yet overtake them - for the first time this season.
"It's (climbing into the top eight) good reward for some of the effort we've been putting in throughout the whole season but we were a fair way off our best footy today," Rutten said.
"Our challenge - and I've been talking about it for a few weeks - is to bridge that gap of our consistency and that's what we're going to need to do.
"We'd obviously be keen, like every team, to make the finals - but we want to be prepared to be able to get in and win them and compete really hard.
"So we're just going to keep bridging that gap with our consistency, keep looking to evolve and add things to our game."
North Melbourne burst out of the blocks and led by 10 points at quarter-time and half-time, before Essendon snapped into action, taking the lead in the third quarter then holding off a late Kangaroos surge.
Jake Stringer booted four second-half goals to steer Essendon to victory while big man Peter Wright (three goals, 20 disposals) and midfielders Zach Merrett (39 disposals and nine clearances) and Darcy Parish (34 touches, eight clearances) were excellent.
In Ben Cunnington's absence, North's Tarryn Thomas was everywhere in the first half before finishing with 23 disposals, while Jy Simpkin (23 touches) and Luke Davies-Uniacke (21 touches) were industrious throughout.
Kangaroos coach David Noble lauded his young midfielders but conceded the game was a missed opportunity.
"Our ball movement was really sharp at times and it was quite damaging, but we just couldn't put enough scoreboard pressure on in that first half," Noble said.
"Then our defence was probably not at the standard that we have done, in the second half, and we let a bit more score in than what we probably wanted to in the end."
The Kangaroos lost youngster Jack Mahony to an AC joint injury, with Atu Bosenavulagi replacing the teenager, who will have scans.
Essendon were without Harrison Jones (foot stress reaction).
Rutten was awaiting more information on the forward's injury, but was confident Kyle Langford (hamstring) and Dylan Shiel (knee) would be available in coming weeks.