North Melbourne’s AFL season of great expectations is now mired in crisis after Port Adelaide blitzed them by 28 points.
The Power unleashed their best performance this season to take down the Kangaroos 16.9 (105) to 10.17 (77) and keep their slim finals hopes alive in Saturday’s twilight game at Etihad Stadium.
But the win came at a potentially-serious cost for the Power, with key forward Charlie Dixon needing help from trainers to limp from the field in the last quarter.
It was a classic “eight-point” result, given North started the match in eighth spot, three games ahead of ninth-placed Port.
Had the Kangaroos won, it would have gone a long way to settling the top eight with only six rounds left.
Instead it was North’s fifth-straight loss and they are just two games clear of Port.
After starting the season with nine-straight wins, the ‘Roos have lost six of their last seven matches.
The tone was set in the opening minute, when North defender Michael Firrito was under pressure deep in Port’s attack and handballed through a rushed behind.
He was stiff to have a free kick paid against him and Jay Schulz kicked the opening goal of the game from point-blank range.
Port proceeded to swamp the ‘Roos, kicking 6.3 to 0.5 in the first quarter.
North rallied with three goals in the second term and were still in the match with a 29-point deficit at the main break.
But they self-sabotaged in the third quarter, spraying 2.9 in the third term.
At the other end, Port kicked 3.0 and each of those goals was a dagger through the heart.
North veteran Brent Harvey started the last quarter with a goal, reducing the margin to 30 points and briefly keeping it interesting.
But Robbie Gray’s superb snapped goal four minutes later ensured there would be no last-quarter heroics from the ‘Roos.
Gray, captain Travis Boak and Chad Wingard were outstanding for Port, while ruckman Jackson Trengove played a key role in their hot start with four clearances in the first quarter.
Harvey starred for the Kangaroos with 29 disposals and two goals.