What we learned: Only the Tigers are ahead of the Hawks at the MCG

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Hawthorn has just about guaranteed itself a finals berth in 2018 after holding on to win a nail-biter against modern day rival Geelong at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

In front of 59,529 fans, the Hawks overcame a sluggish start to lead by 27 points late in the third quarter before the Cats got on a trademark final quarter surge and kicked three goals in five minutes to close the gap to just seven points.

However, when Tom Hawkins slid a routine set shot wide from 30m out -- one that would have cut the lead to a solitary point with three minutes remaining -- Hawthorn took full advantage, taking the ball from one end of the ground for Jaeger O'Meara to convert.

Geelong could find themselves two wins outside the top eight by the conclusion of Round 21 and is in serious danger of missing finals for just the second time since 2006.

Here's what we learned from the game...

Hawthorn's a scary opponent at the MCG

We all know about Richmond's daunting record at the MCG, but Hawthorn is building quite the CV of their own at the home of football.

Saturday afternoon's win over Geelong was the Hawks' seventh victory from nine games at the MCG this year, the joint-second most in the league behind the Tigers. Over the course of the season the Hawks have outscored opponents by 174 points at the 'G.

In fact, even in their losses Hawthorn has been ultra competitive. They went down by just 13 points to Richmond in Round 3 and only a seven goal special from Ben Ronke denied them in Round 8 against Sydney.

Hawthorn's trademark precise kicking combined with their forward half run-and-carry continues to work wonders on the sparse MCG, and it was on full display on Saturday afternoon against Geelong. They won the clearance battle, inside 50 count, tackled more and controlled the ball for larger parts of the game.

Richmond, for very good reason, might be the 2018 premiership favourites but we all know where Melbourne finals are played and the Hawks are proving they can mix it there with the best of them.

Danger must spend more minutes in the midfield

He may be one of the league's best one-on-one players and a real weapon in the forward line but Geelong is far better served having Patrick Dangerfield playing as a permanent midfielder.

The 2016 Brownlow Medallist was in stellar form at the MCG on Saturday and clearly the most impactful midfielder on the ground. After racking up 15 possessions in a little over a quarter, Chris Scott opted to send Dangerfield to full forward and that's when the game turned.

Hawthorn had yet to boot a major by that stage in the game but in the next 15 minutes goals to Jack Gunston, Luke Breust and Isaac Smith saw them turn a 13 point deficit into an 18 point half time lead.

He was thrust back into the middle in the second half but by that stage the confidence had grown in the Hawks and the gap they had established proved to be too much to overcome. Dangerfield finished with 40 disposals (26 contested), nine clearances, five inside 50s and two goal assists, and you wonder just how much more impact he could have had if Scott didn't take him out of the midfield when they were on top.

Geelong may not play finals this year but if they are to challenge for a flag in 2019, Dangerfield must spend far more of his time on ball.

Unheralded Hawks are the difference

When analysing a club's chances in September most people tend to go looking at the A-graders and the damage they can do, but what's often overlooked is how much impact the lesser known names can have.

While the likes of Tom Mitchell, Liam Shiels, Shaun Burgoyne and Luke Breust are pictures of consistency, the next rung of Hawks are beginning to make their presence felt at AFL level.

Against Geelong there were a number of them who played a critical role in the win.

Emerging midfielder James Worpel must have been getting ball hunting tips from Mitchell during the week as he continued to find it, particularly in the first three quarters where he amassed 21 possessions. He finished with 23 touches of the Sherrin but also contributed four clearances and eight tackles.

Ricky Henderson was also solid with 22 possessions at 70-percent efficiency to go along with eight marks and five inside 50s, while Harry Morrison, Blake Hardwick, Teia Miles and Jonathon Ceglar were all important.

It was a stark difference to the Cats who were carrying far too many passengers. Lachlan Fogarty, Dan Menzel, Mark O'Connor and James Parsons were all virtually unsighted while it took a quarter and a half for Cam Guthrie and Jake Kolodjashnij to record their first possession.