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It’s simply a must-win game for Western Bulldogs on Friday night, as last year’s grand finalists look to keep in touch with the top eight ahead when it takes on Hawthorn.

The Dogs (7-6, 118.6%) have recovered after a slow start to the season, winning four of their last five games, and could be level with sixth position by the end of the night with a victory.

Hawthorn (4-9, 87.5%) has shown plenty of promise despite its lopsided win-loss record, with Sam Mitchell’s side pushing several of the top teams in the competition this year.

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There were no late changes for either side. Lachlan McNeil (Bulldogs) and Josh Morris (Hawks) were the medical substitutes.

Mitch Lewis kicked the first goal of the game, fresh off signing a four-year contract extension with the Hawks.

Hawthorn looked brilliant early on, with a passage of end-to-end transition from defence leading to a Dylan Moore goal, while Lewis loomed large as he kicked his second goal.

Ed Richards was moved onto Moore, who had two goal assists and a goal of his own less than seven minutes into the match.

While Jason Johannisen would get the Dogs’ first goal, the Hawks were still sizzling, with Luke Breust kicking his first goal of the evening to put his side up by 19 points.

“The Hawks have brought intensity, they have pace and they are unravelling the Bulldogs defence,” Gerard Whateley said on AFL Nation.

A 19-point lead to the Hawks at quarter-time was increased even more in the second term, with a goal to Ned Reeves making it 26 points three minutes into the quarter.

From there, however, the Dogs started to put together some vintage passages of transition play and possession chains, with Aaron Naughton taking a brilliant pack mark and converting the set shot as part of three quick majors.

The third of those, to former Hawk Tim O’Brien, brought the margin back to just one goal.

The match gets underway at 7pm from Marvel Stadium.

Watch it live on Fox Footy (channel 504) and Kayo from 6:30pm.

Follow Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn in our live blog below!

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