Round 20 saw Adam Treloar step up in a big way for the Pies, Liam Ryan show his superb mix of class and courage, while Angus Brayshaw continued his stunning slide and the Cats slip up yet again.
Here are this week's Heroes & Villains.
Liam Ryan's courage and class: Is Liam Ryan the most watchable player in the competition?
He's certainly building his case after a stunning display against Carlton at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
In 32 games after being drafted as a mature-age prospect, Ryan has rapidly developed cult figure status at the Eagles, certainly helped by his role in West Coast's match-winning end-to-end play to snatch the 2018 premiership from Collingwood.
The spring-heeled half-forward has taken several towering marks since but his incredible grab against Carlton was by far his best.
Defying his 179cm, 72kg frame, Ryan charged with the flight of the ball into an oncoming pack deep inside his team's attacking 50, in shades of Nick Riewoldt's and Jonathan Brown's iconic marks from the mid 2000s which are still lauded to this day.
It showed Ryan doesn't just bring flamboyance and finishing skills to the West Coast line-up - he also has a serious amount of courage.
Oh, and he also booted four goals from 16 touches ... quite the day out as the Eagles overcame a slow start to claim the four points, rising to second on the ladder.
Rhyce Shaw and the Roos: Twenty minutes into Friday night's game against Hawthorn and Rhyce Shaw -- who during the week signed a three-year deal to become North Melbourne's full time coach -- must have been wondering what on earth he had got himself into.
The Roos were getting absolutely crushed in the middle of the ground and conceded the first four goals of the game, allowing the Hawks to skip out to an early 27-point lead.
At quarter time, Shaw could have been excused for dishing out an almighty spray, but the 37-year-old took a different path, remaining calm in the huddle and delivering a message which clearly resonated with his troops.
From then on the game swung. North Melbourne, led by Ben Cunnington (21 disposals, eight clearances) and Shaun Higgins (28 disposals, seven clearances) in the midfield and Ben Brown (four goals) in attack, stormed back into the contest. They began dominating the contest, going on to boot eight of the next 10 goals to hit the front and draw well clear.
The Hawks couldn't fight back into the game and eventually went down by 22 points. The result means both sides are now locked on 32 points and will face an uphill battle to play finals.
Still, Shaw now improves to a coaching record of 5-4 and is one of very few who can boast a 100 percent winning record against Hawks coaching great Alastair Clarkson.
Adam Treloar: Murmurs were bubbling around the MCG after Gold Coast jumped out to a two-goal-to-nothing lead over Collingwood in the opening minutes of Sunday's clash.
Going in, the Pies' form had not been crash-hot, and serving up another underwhelming performance against the Suns would have both raised eyebrows and lowered their chances of hosting a final.
But, in a first-quarter performance which not only curtailed the Suns' momentum but kickstarted it moving the other way, Adam Treloar produced an MCG masterclass of massive proportions.
In the first quarter alone, Treloar racked up 12 touches and went at 100 percent kicking efficiency, while he also managed three clearances, more than 250 metres gained and a goal.
By half time, he'd posted 21 disposals, and at the final siren Treloar had gathered 35 touches (15 contested), 10 clearances and nine inside 50s as the Pies surged to an dominant win.
Impressively, his disposal efficiency was 91 percent which is an area he needs to improve to be considered truly elite.
Treloar's tone-setting first half might just prove the be the circuit-breaker the Pies needed heading into September.
The Brayshaw/Goodwin conundrum: What on earth has happened to Angus Brayshaw?
After announcing himself as one of the league's most exciting midfielders with a barnstorming third place finish in the 2018 Brownlow Medal count, Brayshaw has this year personified his club's tumble down the ladder.
Comparing his raw stats from this year to last season is damning, with the 23-year-old significantly down in all the key areas including disposals, tackles, inside-50s, contested possessions, clearances and metres gained.
Against Richmond on Saturday night, he could only muster 11 disposals - his fewest since 2016, continuing a lean run in the second half of this season.
Worryingly, he's not playing with the same spark and intensity that he's showcased every time he's set foot on an AFL field until this year.
Trying to work out how and why this has happened is difficult. Is he simply out of form, or has Simon Goodwin's coaching played a part? It's obvious Goodwin is for whatever reason reluctant to use Brayshaw as a true midfielder -- against the Tigers, he spent half his time in the midfield but 27 percent in defence and 19 percent forward.
Could being thrown all over the park be behind Brayshaw's worrying drop-off? Or did Brayshaw's underwhelming form earlier in the year force his coaches to experiment with different positions?
It's a chicken-and-egg conundrum the Demons must solve quickly before the former No. 3 draft pick becomes the latest of a long line of wasted talents in red and blue.
Dismal Dons: Nobody's ever quite sure what Port Adelaide will serve up, but one thing is for certain: their best is good enough to trouble just about anyone in September (if they can make it).
Ken Hinkley's side more than troubled Essendon on Saturday afternoon, crushing the men in red and black by a staggering 59 points for their first loss since Round 14.
The listless Bombers were soundly beaten in almost every statistical area, including the disposal count (-56), clearances (-9), inside 50s (-8) and contested possessions (-12). They looked slow, tired and lacked polish, resembling the disappointing side we saw in the early rounds of the year.
With mercurial forward Shaun McKernan a late withdrawal, the Dons were forced to play defender Cale Hooker in attack. Hooker may have delivered a number of highlights as a forward, but he had an absolute shocker against Port, going goalless from his 13 disposals and never looking like a threat.
Fortunately for the Bombers, they have maintained seventh spot on the ladder. However, with Adelaide and now Port Adelaide right behind, a finals berth is far from a certainty. I guess you could say they let a massive opportunity slip.
Meanwhile, the Power have a relatively soft run to end the home and away season with games to come against Sydney (Adelaide Oval), North Melbourne (Marvel Stadium) and Fremantle (Adelaide Oval). If they keep winning and jag a place in the top eight, you just never know how far they can go...
Crumbling Cats: It's strange to think the club on top of the ladder with just three rounds to go looks as vulnerable as any, but that's where we're at now with Geelong after Saturday's insipid loss to Fremantle.
The Cats raced out of the blocks at Optus Stadium with a five-goal-to-two first term but then could only manage one, two and one goals in the remaining three quarters. Gone was the early-season intensity and spark, replaced instead by tentative play and an inability to score.
The Dockers - who kept their finals hopes alive with the upset win -- smashed the Cats in disposals, inside 50s, contested possessions and tackles and none of Geelong's stars shone: Tim Kelly (25 touches) was respectable but Mitch Duncan, Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood were all well below their best, with coach Chris Scott saying post-match: "We had a lot of individuals who have been really good this year who were down."
Scott now needs to find a way to get those individuals back into their best form, and also arrest a team-wide slump that has the Cats limping, rather than surging, into September.
They are still top of the table, but by percentage only after West Coast and Brisbane both won at the weekend, with the Tigers looming large in fourth. But they're playing like a bottom-four team since the bye, having lost to Port, the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn and now Fremantle since then.
With games against North Melbourne (GMHBA), Brisbane (Gabba) and Carton (GMHBA) to come, the opportunity is there for Geelong to rediscover theirspark, but time is running out.