North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw is delighted his side will head into the AFL off-season on a high note after Shaun Higgins kicked a last-gasp winner to break Melbourne hearts in a five-point thriller in Hobart.
Alex Neal-Bullen had the chance to draw scores level in a frantic finish, but his running shot from just inside 50 hit the post with nine seconds remaining, the Roos prevailing 13.10 (88) to 12.11 (83) at Blundstone Arena on Saturday.
Ben Brown was held to two goals to lead GWS star Jeremy Cameron by six goals in the race for the Coleman Medal, with the Giants to face Gold Coast on Saturday night.
The match was the final farewell for North's Scott Thompson and Melbourne's Jordan Lewis, both prominent in their AFL swan song.
Higgins starred for the Roos with 34 possessions and two goals, with Jared Polec (29 touches and two goals) also eye-catching as North improved their win-loss record to 10-12.
After a 3-7 start that saw Brad Scott walk away from the club in his 10th season in charge, the Kangaroos finished with seven wins and five losses under Shaw.
"It was really important (to finish with a win)," Shaw said.
"It was something we spoke about when we couldn't make finals.
"We could've either made a choice to pack it in or really try to set ourselves up for next year.
"I think our last two games, one was a really good display of North Melbourne football and today we were a little bit disappointed in the way that we played but our effort to get across the line was really pleasing."
The gut-wrenching result was in some ways a fitting end to a horrendous season for Melbourne, who finish 17th with a 5-17 record after making last year's preliminary final.
"We did a lot of work during the week about resetting as a footy club, grabbing the learnings out of the year and really cleansing ourselves of what's happened," coach Simon Goodwin said.
"We're really resetting ourselves for next year and beyond and that started today.
"We said 'Why not today?' and the performance, even though we didn't get across the line, was a strong one."
Max Gawn was outstanding for the Demons with 26 possessions, three goals and 41 hitouts, with Clayton Oliver also influential with 33 disposals.
Bayley Fritsch used Thompson as a launching pad for a spectacular mark in the opening minutes, the Demons forward booting successive goals to help his side to a four-point lead at the first break.
Scores were level going into the second half, but Melbourne moved out to a 15-point lead with Gawn booting two goals before Taylor Garner and Nick Larkey goaled to slash the margin to a point at three-quarter time.
The Kangaroos were down a player in the final term after Jamie Macmillan was concussed, but they kicked three goals to one, Higgins booting the winner with just over a minute left.