Saints hold off fast-finishing Demons

St Kilda players celebrate during their Round 15 clash against Melbourne. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

A Max Gawn masterclass has failed to lift Melbourne off the canvas, with St Kilda prevailing by two points in a nail-biting AFL slugfest at the MCG.

Down by 27 points early in Sunday's final term, the Demons cut the deficit to two points with 30 seconds left when Jordan Lewis kicked truly from 40m out.

But the Saints won the ball out of the middle at the final stoppage and held on to secure their third win of the season, prevailing 18.11 (119) to 18.9 (117) in front of 38,910 fans.

Best-afield Jade Gresham and Tim Membrey booted four goals each while Jake Carlisle (22 disposals, nine marks) got the better of Demons forward Tom McDonald.

Gresham, whose last-minute winner against Gold Coast in round 13 handed the Saints their first win since round one, was involved in everything, burning the Demons with his scorching pace and setting up two of Membrey's goals.

St Kilda led at every break but the Dees were never out of the game despite plenty of fans heading for the exit before the final siren.

"That was one of those games that I felt absolutely in control of, and then within the blink of an eye, it was not that," Saints coach Alan Richardson said.

"I'm really pleased for the guys. If you can park the last three minutes, that was our best performance for the year."

Melbourne will finish the round inside the top eight only on percentage, having now lost three straight games.

Brownlow Medal contender Gawn was immense around the ground with 39 hitouts, 11 marks and 25 disposals.

The Demons faithful cheered the 208cm ruckman every time he ran to the bench in recognition of his huge contribution.

But poor ball use, a lack of discipline and defensive lapses combined to prevent the Demons capitalising on his dominance.

Three of St Kilda's goals in the first half alone came as a result of 50m penalties.

Several others came about through a lack of organisation in the Demons' back line, which left the Saints able to mark uncontested and find the goals with ease.

"In the end, I thought our ability to defend wasn't to the level," Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.

"We need to work as a club harder when we don't have the ball. That's pretty simple."

Jesse Hogan booted three goals for Melbourne but was largely kept quiet until the second half.

The AFL's highest-scoring team, Melbourne have proven capable of terrorising opponents such as Adelaide, who they smashed by 91 points in round 10.

But consecutive losses to Collingwood, Port Adelaide and now St Kilda have ensured many of the Demons' critics remain unconvinced and left them looking vulnerable in their quest to snap a 12-year finals drought.