Geelong have gotten out of jail against Richmond to move into fourth spot, but with two rounds to go in the home-and-away season, every position in the AFL top eight remains up for grabs.
The Cats overcame a 35-point deficit at three-quarter time to avoid a big blow to their top-four chances against the Tigers, but Greater Western Sydney weren't so lucky, with the Giants dropping to fifth after West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui's stunning last-minute winner.
Sunday's Cats-Tigers clash at the MCG continued a theme for Chris Scott's side, who have struggled against teams outside the top eight this season.
"There's a fair bit of validation there for what we've been doing because we've beaten most of the top eight, I think, all bar Sydney," Scott said after his side's four-point win.
"Then we've had some moments when we've let ourselves down. But if you look across the season, most sides are a little bit similar.
"The challenge for us is to play our best when it really counts.
"I don't want to get too choosy. We just want to be at our best as much as we possibly can."
Ladder leaders Hawthorn, second-placed Sydney and Adelaide in third had wins as the dogfight for a top-four spot intensified.
The Giants and the eighth-placed Kangaroos were the only teams inside the eight to lose at the weekend, with North's loss to the Hawks leaving the door open for a surprise charge from Melbourne.
The Demons ended Port Adelaide's finals chances with a 40-point win in Adelaide to move into ninth spot - two wins and just less than four percentage points behind the Roos.
Melbourne must beat Carlton at the MCG and Geelong at Simonds Stadium, and North must lose to Sydney and GWS if Paul Roos is to lead a team into the finals one last time.
"We can't control what happens in the next couple of weeks to a certain extent," Roos told Triple M.
"But there is real excitement in what the club's building, excitement around our list, and the ability to play against good teams."
The Eagles (sixth) and the Western Bulldogs, who sneaked past Collingwood by three points to remain in seventh, are equal with GWS on 14 wins for the season.
Essendon snapped the worst losing streak in the club's history with a win over Gold Coast, and the hapless Lions upset Carlton in remaining results from a fascinating round of AFL footy.