The AFL clash at the MCG on Friday night was all about pressure.
Essendon relieved some with a gutsy 18-point victory, and winless Melbourne cracked under it.
The Demons face a week of intense scrutiny and soul-searching after the Bombers, who lost Kobe Mutch to injury in the first quarter, opened their account with a pulsating 20.10 (130) to 18.4 (112) win in front of 52,475 fans.
Essendon were in trouble 13 points down late in the first half, having conceded six unanswered goals.
But they hit back with seven majors in a row in the third quarter to open up a game-high 33-point lead that they didn't surrender to improve their record to 1-2.
"I'm rapt for how they went about it considering we lost Kobe in the first five minutes," John Worsfold said.
"We had a couple of other players who were sore who stayed out on the ground who probably wouldn't have in normal circumstances.
"They really helped carry the load, so taking all that into account, I was really pleased for them."
Dylan Shiel, while wasteful by foot at times, was influential with 31 possessions, with Dyson Heppell (27), David Zaharakis (31) and Zach Merrett (26) all important.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Jake Stringer and Shaun McKernan did the damage in attack with four goals each.
Melbourne were much-improved on their 80-point loss to Geelong, but they find themselves with plenty of work to do at 0-3.
"There are parts of our game that are unacceptable at the moment," Simon Goodwin said.
"We're just getting scored against way too easily."
Angus Brayshaw (34 possessions), Clayton Oliver (29) and Max Gawn (18 disposals and 43 hitouts) battled hard at the contest, while James Harmes and Jayden Hunt booted three goals each.
Despite the loss of Mutch to a hamstring injury, the Bombers opened full of running, McKernan booting two goals as his side leapt to a 21-point lead at the first break.
Christian Petracca, much-maligned for his slow start to the season, helped spark Melbourne with a goal and his energy inside 50.
The Demons slammed through six unanswered goals in a stunning salvo, Harmes putting the Demons in front for the first time 20 minutes into the second term.
The Bombers trailed by seven points at the restart but turned the tables on their opponents, picking them apart with superior pace.
McDonald-Tipungwuti, in another typically eye-catching showing, booted two goals and Devon Smith chimed in with a couple as their side jumped out to a 21-point lead at three-quarter time.
In an enthralling quarter filled with critical moments, Kade Kolodjashnij brought the margin back to 15 points early in the final term with his first goal for the Demons.
But the game of wild momentum shifts didn't have another twist, brave Essendon holding on for a superb win.