Fremantle have finally snuck into the top eight after disposing of Richmond by 22 points at Patersons Stadium this afternoon.
Ruckman Aaron Sandilands proved just how important he remains to the Dockers fortunes after being announced as a late inclusion just half an hour before bounce down.
The giant collected a game-high 33 hit-outs to go with 18 disposals and nine clearances as the hosts capitalised on his dominance around the stoppages in winning 13.16 (94) to 11.6 (72).
Pavlich never looked completely comfortable after grabbing at his right hamstring following a heavy collision with teammate Kepler Bradley just 12 minutes into the match.
The 276-game veteran went off several times to get treatment and by the third quarter was also receiving attention on his right groin after chasing down an opponent.
Pavlich finished on the bench as his teammates secured the triumph.
Conspiracy theorists would have been going into overdrive before the bounce when emergency Sandilands was rushed into the side after ruckman Jonathon Griffin injured his groin during the warm-up.
Sandilands, who hadn’t played since round 11 due to a toe injury, wasn’t on the Fremantle team list released an hour before bounce down, but was always rumoured to be in the mix for a late call-up.
Coach Ross Lyon was adamant the late change wasn’t planned.
“I’m in as much shock as anyone. It’s certainly not a ruse. He’s tweaked his groin,” Lyon said of Griffin.
“He said, ’look, I’m really worried about playing’.
“I’m telling you he’s sore, It’s a bona fide injury. There’s no ruse. It’s funny how the footy gods work.”
The result, which is Fremantle’s fifth win in six games, has given them a red-hot chance of playing in finals.
They have North Melbourne (away) and Melbourne (home) to come, with at least one win needed from those final two games to realistically feature in September.
Carlton remain their greatest rival for the final spot in the eight.
The Blues belted Essendon by 96 points in a percentage booster and with Gold Coast and St Kilda left in their draw are still capable of snatching a finals berth away from the Dockers.
Hayden Ballantyne finished with three goals in one of his best games this season, but Tendai Mzungu came from the field late with a suspected right shoulder injury laste in the match.
FREMANTLE 3.4 7.8 10.12 13.16 (94)
RICHMOND 2.3 5.4 8.4 11.6 (72)
GOALS – FREMANTLE: H Ballantyne, M Pavlich 3; M De Boer 2; S Hill, T Mzungu, M Walters, C Mayne, K Bradley. RICHMOND: J King 3; J Riewoldt, B Deledio 2; R Nahas, M White, S Edwards.
BEST – FREMANTLE: H Ballantyne, D Mundy, M Barlow, P Duffield, A Sandilands, L McPharlin. RICHMOND: T Cotchin, S Tuck, J King, S Grigg, M White.
INJURIES: – FREMANTLE: M Pavlich (groin), T Mzungu (shoulder). RICHMOND: B Griffiths (concussion).
UMPIRES: D Margetts, R Findlay, S McInerney.
CROWD: 32,721 at Patersons Stadium.