Clutch Jack Ziebell breaks Bulldog hearts in thriller

North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell has kicked a last-minute winner to break Western Bulldogs hearts in a two-point AFL thriller at Etihad Stadium.

The brave Dogs fell behind in the final term after leading most of the night.

They retook the lead through Billy Gowers with just over two minutes left only to see Ziebell fire home the winner with 20 seconds remaining to seal a 12.5 (77) to 11.9 (75) win in front of 26,301 fans on Saturday night.

Ben Brown, who booted a game-high five goals, found Ziebell on the edge of the goal square with a neat soccered pass in the frantic dying seconds for the last goal of the contest.

Ziebell finished with three goals, while Shaun Higgins (32 possessions and two goals), Ben Cunnington (30 touches) and Todd Goldstein (20 possessions and 42 hitouts) were also influential.

Hayden Crozier had a career-best 30 disposals in his best game for the Dogs, with Lachie Hunter (30) and Toby McLean (26) prominent.

It was a cruel end for the Dogs who have disappointed for much of the season but rediscovered the high-intensity game that propelled them to the 2016 premiership.

With Dale Morris and Marcus Adams returning to the Dogs' back line, Luke Beveridge threw defenders Zaine Cordy and Aaron Naughton up forward with great effect.

The Bulldogs led the listless Roos by a goal at quarter-time and both players hit the scoreboard to help their lead to 18 points at halftime.

Cordy got right in Robbie Tarrant's face after he kicked the first goal of the second term, with the resulting melee ending with a goal to Gowers after Marley Williams threw him to the ground.

Every Bulldogs player on the ground mobbed Naughton when he kicked the first goal of his AFL career and the Kangaroos had problems.

But as they have too often in a frustrating season, the Dogs were unable to maintain the same intensity.

The Roos lifted as well, Brown adding two more and Higgins booting the last two goals on the third quarter to slash the margin to two points.

The Roos looked set to overpower the Dogs after they booted the first two goals of the final term.

Ed Richards and Gowers had Bulldogs fans on their feet only for Ziebell to get on the end of a pivotal coast-to-coast play.