MELBOURNE was beaten across all three lines in its 41-point qualifying final loss to North Melbourne.
Demons coach Mick Stinear was upfront in saying his team did not play to the level required on Sunday afternoon, and holds no illusions as to where improvement needs to come from.
"We're really disappointed. We're thankful that we had a strong enough home-and-away season that we've got a double chance, we'll certainly use that," Stinear said.
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"North today thoroughly deserved the win. It was backs against the wall in the first quarter, I thought the group did well to absorb that and work through it, but we never got to a stage where we could connect forward of centre.
"Their defence was very strong, and they opened us up going back the other way a number of times. I thought they played a really sound and complete game.
"We could have been stronger around the ball at times, and then forward of centre, we could have done more to create a contest and bring it to the front or win those contests.
"Then behind the ball we got scored against too easily at times. We certainly weren't taking North lightly, but they outplayed us today and gave us a bit of an update where we're at and where we need to get to."
While Melbourne soundly defeated North Melbourne when they met earlier in the season, the Demons have now recorded losses to all fellow top-four sides in the Roos, Adelaide and Brisbane this year.
"Today, North were far too good, so it was a bit of a blowout, but we know it's close between those top four teams," Stinear said.
"Obviously Geelong and Sydney are now bridging that gap and they want to stake their claim on finals as well. It looks like a competitive top six at the moment.
"We think we're right in there with the best in the competition, obviously today's not good enough, and a performance like that is not going to be good enough next week against Geelong, either.
"We're under no illusions that today wasn't where we needed to be. The double-chance comes in handy, we need to have an edge and come out here with a much better performance next week."
North Melbourne coach Darren Crocker said the team had never spoken about a monkey on the back in regards to a breakthrough win over the big three, trusting that the result would come as their system developed.
"I must admit, driving here today, I wouldn't have thought we'd win as comprehensively as that, given Melbourne are just a really great outfit and have been for a long time," Crocker said.
"It's our first victory over them (under Crocker, second ever), the way our players applied themselves was just super today.
"We've got unbelievable faith in our defensive system. It's held up. It's been building, not just this season, but throughout the last few seasons. Players have gained more and more belief and confidence around it.
"it's a bit different than the way a lot of other teams play, but we think it suits us and holds up well. Today just gave the players some great evidence that it can hold up under finals pressure and finals football."
Crocker confirmed spearhead Kate Shierlaw didn't require a concussion test after her fourth-quarter marking collision with Tayla Harris, instead receiving treatment on a badly cut lip.