Early dominance helped the Rockingham Rams stave off a late charge from Pinjarra in their top-of-the-table clash at Sir Ross McLarty Oval on Sunday, as the ladder-leaders strengthened their claims to the minor premiership.
The Rams clamped down on their hosts not allowing them a single goal in the second and third terms, giving them the breathing space they needed to withstand a last-quarter surge from the reigning premiers and grind out a gutsy 5.9 (39) to 10.9 (69) win.
It was mercurial forward Luke Dowling that had the Rams off and running, as he conjured three of his four goals in the first term.
He nailed the first of the day to get the ball rolling, before Pinjarra young gun Nixon Purser returned serve.
Dowling bagged the following two with Rocky Collins and Mitch Anderson providing plenty around the ground as the visitors looked to assert themselves in the early goings, but a late one to Robert Bird helped the Tigers peg the margin back to within five points at quarter time.
From there the Rams assumed control, with a blistering second term netting them four goals to Pinjarra's zip.
Collins teamed up with the likes of Brad Walsh and Fraser Millar to give Rockingham dominance in the middle of the ground, and young forward Ben Otto was the beneficiary as he slotted two goals for the term.
Millar and Walsh also both hit the scoreboard in the quarter, as the Rams cruised into half time holding a five-goal lead.
Pinjarra threatened to come back into the fold in the second half with Brock O'Brien, Jarrod Bowman and Kieran May giving the reigning premiers plenty out their back half, but the Rams did enough to maintain their own defensive brilliance with Josh McMahen giving a superb four quarters.
Rockingham snagged the only goal for the third when Lucas Humphreys found the middle of the sticks, setting up a 34-point buffer at the final break.
The game looked all but over at three quarter time, but a blistering five-minute patch coming out of the break gave Tigers fans some hope.
Nick Merritt had the home side on the right path when he nailed a goal within the first minute of the fourth term, and Paul Galloway cut the margin even further not long after.
Just minutes later Braddon Kazakoff converted after Ram Tim Taylor was called for a hold, and all of a sudden the Tigers were within three straight kicks.
But their comeback hopes fell away as the efforts of Collins (who conjured the mark of the day with a spectacular grab in the fourth) and McMahen helped stem the flow, while Otto and Dowling both bagged goals to cap off the five-goal win.
The victory sets up a tantalising clash between the Rams and Baldivis next week, with the winner to take out top spot and earn a week off heading into the finals.
Meanwhile Pinjarra now looks certain to finish the year in third place, as they prepare to play the fourth-placed Centrals in the final round of the season.