Essendon have slumped to record AFL lows in a demoralising 69-point loss to Geelong at Etihad Stadium.
The Bombers were dastardly poor and goalless until early in the third term in a 19.8 (122) to 7.11 (53) defeat that leaves their finals hopes hanging by a thread.
For the first time in 31 years, Essendon went into the main change without a major score, with James Hird’s side departing for the changerooms to a chorus of boos.
In contrast, Geelong produced a performance worthy of their premiership era not long past.
Harry Taylor was a one-man defensive wall, Josh Kelly played a strong hand in midfield and Josh Caddy continued his emergence as a goalkicking midfielder of real class.
Tom Hawkins, Steven Motlop and Steve Johnson compiled four goals each as the Cats ran up their percentage.
The rout didn’t reveal itself until the second term.
The Bombers were competitive to quarter time but wayward in front of goal, led by Joe Daniher’s four behinds.
But if Essendon were unlucky to be behind at the first break, the scoreboard didn’t lie from then.
The Cats went from scraping the odd goal to stockpiling them, increasing their lead with little resistance.
The scoreboard pressure gave the Bombers the heebie jeebies, with every second disposal seeming to turn the ball over.
Motlop returned to form with two goals in the Cats’ six-goal term.
At the main break, Hird rang the changes, bringing substitute Paul Chapman into the match for struggling ruck Tom Bellchambers.
After coaching the first half from the interchange bench, he also retreated to the coaching box for the second half.
Brent Stanton ended the Bombers’ goal drought two minutes into the second half but Geelong replied with a goal within 60 seconds through Caddy.
The 22-year-old was explosive all night despite needing treatment for concussion in the first term.
If there was any doubt about the outcome, it was erased soon after as Hawkins added three third quarter goals to help blow the margin out to 82 points.
Essendon brought a modicum of respectability to the scoreline with six of the last 10 goals.
Chris Scott’s side levelled their win-loss record to 5-5 with the victory, while the Bombers slumped to 4-6 and 12th on the ladder.