It was a match that left Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson not happy with the way his side played, but happy with a win, and Essendon's Mark Thompson happy with the way his side played, and not necessarily unhappy with losing.
"Losing is not fun but that was a decent loss, if you can say that. I can't believe I am saying that," Thompson said.
Essendon's comeback that fell short also came at further cost, with Paddy Ryder suffering an ankle injury that will sideline him for next week and compound the absence of No. 1 ruckman Tom Bellchambers.
Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge suffered a groin injury and was subbed out of the game. Clarkson said he expected him to miss next week's grand final rematch with Fremantle at a minimum.
Former Hawthorn captain Sam Mitchell was also a late withdrawal from the game with a knock to the calf, joining Brian Lake, Ryan Schoenmakers, Brad Sewell and Ben Stratton on the sidelines.
"We didn't play particularly well, we were OK early without being great, then we fell away pretty poorly in the third quarter in particular and then stages of the last," Clarkson said.
"We showed an enormous amount of character and belief in ourselves to hang in there and somehow grind out a win.
"Twice, or maybe three times in the last quarter, we went 8-10 points down and hung in there. It's a special win for our club when we haven't played all that flash really and perhaps, in the end, pretty lucky to get the four points.''
Thompson said the loss of Ryder, ironically, had a cascading effect on the shuffling of tall players that helped re-energise his side and get it back into the game.
Clarkson said the Bombers played a keepings-off game in the third quarter that was effective for them, but it was dangerous because they were also vulnerable to being scored quickly against if they lost possession.
"We didn't use the ball well and it was keepings-off in a sense in the second half. They had an enormous amount of uncontested marks and it was pretty similar to the game [they played against North Melbourne] last weekend in a sense.
"It looks like that is going to be the way that the Bombers play, so if they do get control of the footy like that it is going to be very, very difficult to get it off them, but there's also some opportunities ... that if you do get it off them you can score quickly against them - as we found in the last part of the game.''
Clarkson said he was "none too hapy" with the way his side played, but was just pleased that despite playing poorly his side had recorded important early-season wins.