Luke Dahlhaus and Daniel Giansiracusa celebrate a goal during the win against Carlton
CARLTON'S finals hopes have taken a severe battering, with the Blues going down to the Western Bulldogs by 28 points and losing two key players to injury on Saturday evening.
In an entertaining, free-flowing contest at Etihad Stadium, the Blues were shown up by the desperate Dogs, but their job was made much tougher with injuries to Chris Judd and Jeff Garlett during the third quarter.
After Chris Yarran was subbed into the game for defender Matthew Watson halfway through the second quarter, Garlett and Judd both hurt themselves in the tense third term.
The injuries cost Carlton important run against its fleet-footed opponents, who eventually won their sixth game of the year 16. 21 (117) to 13.11 (89).
Bulldogs forward Jarrad Grant was best afield, booting four goals and gathering 24 possessions.
Now Carlton can only make the finals if it wins its remaining three matches, and Port Adelaide and the other teams in contention fall in a massive hole.
That would appear hugely unlikely.
"Not a lot went right for them with players leaving the ground, and one of the all-time greats of the game couldn't play the last quarter, and he was threatening to do some damage in the third quarter, so that's not lost on us," McCartney said.
"I'll sound a smarty pants here, but we may have kept them in the game at times, with kicking points instead of goals, but that's footy.
"To see them up and about and energetic and really having a good crack at the game was pleasing."
"There's absolutely no reason," Malthouse said.
"The Bulldogs were far too hungry, far too good, led far better and made a mockery of our defensive mindset.
"Our first-bounce strategy was in place running down the race and it wasn’t adhered to. That to me is the most disappointing thing about the whole game."
It was a game the Blues simply had to win, but the Bulldogs started stronger, dominating the first quarter but frittering away a series of opportunities, only managing 2.6 to 2.1.
The Bulldogs found their range and radar in the second term, and consecutive goals to Luke Dahlhaus, Grant, Tory Dickson and Liam Jones midway through the quarter pushed their lead out to 28 points.
But the Blues fought back to trail by 15 points at half-time.
With Judd and Brock McLean prominent, Carlton then launched at the Bulldogs.
A nerveless set shot to Dennis Armfield, followed by a goal to Chris Yarran at the 31-minute mark of a marathon third quarter, levelled the scores.
The Dogs still went to the final break six points ahead after Daniel Giansiracusa booted a late goal to set up a grandstand finish.
Down on numbers, the Blues' charge eventually ran out of steam.
Grant booted his fourth early in the term, and the match was sealed with Adam Cooney slotted a curling goal on the run to make the lead unassailable.
Will Minson battles with Robbie Warnock in the ruck during Saturday's contest. Picture: AFL Media
CARLTON 2.1 6.6 12.9 13.11 (89)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 2.6 8.9 12.15 16.21 (117)
Carlton: Menzel 2, Henderson 2, Betts 2, Curnow, McLean, Judd, Tuohy, Armfield, Yarran, Waite
Western Bulldogs: Grant 4, Jones 2, Giansiracusa 2, Dahlhaus 2, Picken, Campbell, Dickson, Tutt, Young, Cooney
Carlton: McLean, Curnow, Judd, Yarran, Scotland, Betts
Western Bulldogs: Griffen, Cooney, Grant, Minson, Liberatore, Roughead
Carlton: Matthew Watson (foot), Jeff Garlett (glute), Chris Judd (leg)
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Carlton: Chris Yarran replaced Matthew Watson (foot) in the second quarter.
Western Bulldogs: Jason Tutt replaced Dylan Addison in the third quarter.
Umpires: Ryan, Pannell, Jeffery
Official crowd: 31,126 at Etihad Stadium