Melbourne brought Saturday night’s dead rubber to life, but North Melbourne brought the nous to win by 30 points at Etihad Stadium.
The Kangaroos started the game knowing they would face Essendon in a sudden-death final seven days later – regardless of the result or margin against the Demons.
Brad Scott’s men looked every part a side that had nothing to play for in the opening half, but after the major break they moved the ball more intelligently and cranked up the pressure.
North booted five goals to one in the third quarter, laying the platform for the 19.9 (123) to 14.9 (93) victory.
Scott would have mixed feelings about his side’s fourth straight win, but his most pressing concern will be an update on defender Lachie Hansen’s hip niggle.
Hansen, who missed the past three games, returned against the Demons but was substituted at halftime.
Leigh Adams was left dazed after a clash of heads with Daniel Cross, the forward also landing awkwardly on his troublesome shoulder after the collision.
Captain Andrew Swallow was felled by an ungainly hit from Chris Dawes late in the third quarter, but played out the game.
Dawes, who booted two goals, then collected Jack Ziebell in the fourth term to earn the wrath of the majority of the 17,174-strong crowd.
North ruckman Ben Brown and debutant Mason Wood nabbed three goals each, while livewire Kayne Turner kicked four majors.
Swallow (22 touches, seven tackles and 11 clearances) was outstanding, while Jamie Macmillan impressed to create more selection headaches for Scott this week.
The fifth-year coach left Michael Firrito (soreness), Lindsay Thomas (knee), Levi Greenwood (calf), Todd Goldstein (soreness) and Luke McDonald (back) out of the side that dismissed the Demons.
All five are expected to tackle the Bombers.
Melbourne slumped to their 10th straight loss, but it was more akin to the respectable sort that long-suffering fans had grown accustomed to in the opening half of the season.
Led by Cross and Bernie Vince, the Demons dug in and played with much dare to enjoy their most productive opening quarter this season: 4.3.
The final score was also the club’s highest under Paul Roos, who will be busy during the off-season frenzy as he seeks to shore up the side’s depth.
Demons ruckman Max Gawn suffered a knee injury in the second term.
“He’s in doubt,” Scott said of Hansen.
“It’s something he’s managed throughout the year. He started the game really well.
“We’ll just see how he pulls up.
“He was a bit sore at halftime, so we decided a no-risk policy was the best one.”
Adams was assessed for concussion, with Scott frustrated when his medical staff wanted to activate a concussion sub – despite Nick Dal Santo having already come on for Hansen.
“Some staff members copped it … he (doctor) didn’t know the rules of the game. I’ll talk to him in private, it’s not really to be aired publicly,” he said.
Gawn will have scans on his knee.
Demons coach Paul Roos was happy with the side’s relative glut of goals, but concerned they conceded so many soft goals.
“It’s just going to be finding the balance between defence and attack over summer,” Roos said.
“When you start to focus on one thing, generally the other starts to struggle.”