Walsh stars as Blues beat Demons in AFL finals epic

Carlton coach Michael Voss has hailed his side's stunning two-point victory over a wayward Melbourne in their AFL semifinal as one of the best wins he has been involved in.

Blake Acres kicked the match-winning goal with less than a minute to play in the Blues' tense 11.7 (73) to 9.17 (71) triumph in front of 96,412 fans at the MCG on Friday night.

Carlton, seeking to end a 28-year premiership drought, are now into their first preliminary final since 2000.

They will face the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, while Melbourne have exited the finals in straight sets for the second year in a row.

Both sides led during a see-sawing final half-hour and Melbourne had a string of chances to put the game to bed, but their last five scoring shots were behinds.

Blues fan-favourite Sam Docherty, nursing a dislocated shoulder that puts him in doubt for the preliminary final, outmarked Judd McVee and pumped the ball long into attack with the seconds ticking down.

Acres marked strongly, and quickly played on to boot the decisive goal from close range.

"We're all in a little bit of disbelief at how it unfolded," Voss said.

"That was just a cracking game of footy, full of mistakes.

"But we somehow found a way through some will and grit and courage, and were able to hit the scoreboard at the end.

"I guess that's what matters."

Carlton midfield star Sam Walsh was outstanding with a game-high 34 disposals, eight tackles and two crucial goals.

Fellow leaders Patrick Cripps (27 disposals, nine clearances) and Jacob Weitering (19 touches, seven marks) were also influential as the Blues clawed over the line.

Tom De Koning stood up and kicked two important first-quarter goals to help Carlton get a foothold in the contest after Melbourne had kicked the first three majors.

Cripps' tough display came despite a series of heavy hits, including a high bump from Kysaiah Pickett that will land the Melbourne livewire in hot water.

Pickett kicked two goals and directly set up another three as he threatened to win the match for Melbourne.

Joel Smith kicked three goals, while Jack Viney (31 disposals, seven clearances), Clayton Oliver (27, six) and Christian Petracca (24, six) all fought tirelessly.

Steven May was brilliant as Melbourne's defence controlled Charlie Curnow, holding the back-to-back Coleman medallist to just one goal from nine touches.

But the Demons couldn't capitalise on their opportunities in attack.

Late shots from Max Gawn and Kysaiah Pickett hit the post and another from Oliver, which would have put the Demons more than a kick clear deep into time-on, was touched on the line by captain Gawn as players wrestled in the square.

Melbourne kicked 5.10 in the second half and are now 0-4 in finals matches since their breakthrough 2021 flag.

"We got enough shots to win the game and we just didn't kick our goals," Demons coach Simon Goodwin said.

"In the end, it was inefficiency with the ball that cost us.

"When you lose finals and your season finishes, there's certainly an emptiness about the group and there's adversity that we'll have to work through."