Fremantle’s finals fairytale was shattered tonight when they were unable to hold off a courageous Adelaide comeback at AAMI Stadium.
Despite a stirring start to the match by the Dockers, the Crows mounted a sustained surge through the back half of the game.
On the back of five goals to spearhead Taylor Walker, they progressed to next Saturday night’s preliminary final clash with Hawthorn at the MCG after their 12.9 (81) to 11.5 (71) victory.
Adelaide were suffering through injury early in the match. Already without Daniel Talia because of a broken arm, key defender Sam Shaw appeared to hurt his right hamstring late in the opening term after Ricky Henderson had hurt his thumb.
While Henderson played on, Shaw was immediately substituted out and Graham Johncock came on to be a dangerous forward.
Like last Saturday night against Geelong, Fremantle started in blazing fashion, brilliantly led by midfielder David Mundy and with forwards Chris Mayne and Michael Walters finishing off the good work from further up the ground.
Mayne booted the first two goals of the match before three minutes had elapsed and the Dockers jumped to a 16-point lead at the first break.
But a clutch goal from a set-shot after the half time siren by Taylor Walker narrowed that gap to just 13 points at the main break.
Unlike it was in a 28-point loss to Adelaide at the same venue just a month earlier, Fremantle had a strong clearance advantage with Aaron Sandilands just shading Sam Jacobs for effectiveness in the ruck.
But with their season on the line, the Crows stormed into action kicking four goals to one in a grinding third-quarter effort to tear back a five-point lead with a quarter to play.
Rory Sloane was inspirational through the middle of the ground and Walker was a dominant force up front. Fremantle players started to look tired and a tough travelling schedule appeared to be finally taking a toll.
The injury absence of star Dockers defender Luke McPharlin was particularly significant as Walker gave his replacement Alex Silvagni a night he would rather forget.
At the other end of the ground, the veteran Adelaide full-back was sensational in his shut-down job on Matthew Pavlich.
The Fremantle captain toiled hard and was often the victim of poor delivery, but still managed to kick a final-term goal that gave his team a seven-point lead.
But the Crows were cool in the crisis and the home side scored a deserved win.