Harley Bennell made a successful return to football as Melbourne survived a late Carlton fightback to register their first triumph of the AFL season with a tense one-point win on Saturday.
Christian Petracca reaped the benefits of a strong preparation for the competition restart and starred at Marvel Stadium as teen debutants Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers impressed.
The Demons kicked the first seven goals of the match – including three to Jayden Hunt – in a blistering start but added just one after half-time.
They were forced to survive some nervous moments late in the 8.6 (54) to 7.11 (53) win as Carlton ground their way back into the contest.
The result left Blues winless and was compounded by a serious knee injury to defender Nic Newman, who was taken from the field on a stretcher before quarter-time.
Newman, who had surgery on a dislocated elbow during the shutdown period, damaged the patella tendon in his right knee.
Carlton were held scoreless in the first term but hit back with the four consecutive majors either side of half-time.
Veteran goal sneak Eddie Betts made his long-awaited return for the Blues after returning from Adelaide and missing round one through injury, but was kept quiet by Neville Jetta.
Betts had just eight disposals but kicked one goal at a crucial period in the last quarter to cut the margin to nine points before skipper Patrick Cripps trimmed it back to one with six minutes left to play.
They drew level when Jack Martin hit the post, but a late behind from Bayley Fritsch – who finished with an inaccurate 1.4 – settled the contest.
Petracca kicked two majors from 24 disposals and gave his side a lift during the third term with a clever mark and goal on the run from outside 50m.
It was a display that will have Demons fans salivating at the prospect of the strong and versatile 24-year-old fulfilling his immense talent in 2020.
A pre-season supplemental selection by the Demons this year, Bennell made an emotional AFL comeback after a long succession of soft-tissue injuries.
The former Fremantle and Gold Coast speedster moved well in his first match since 2017 and showed flashes of class in gathering 14 disposals from half-forward.