MELBOURNE coach Simon Goodwin has bemoaned his side's woeful second-half goalkicking accuracy after watching a five-goal lead turn into a two-point loss in Darwin on Saturday night.
The Demons looked more like the damaging 2018 version of themselves in waltzing to a 31-point advantage almost 10 minutes into the third quarter.
DEES LET IT SLIP Full match coverage and stats
The performance came unstuck in an extraordinary series of misses as Melbourne went from an 11.5 scoreline at that stage to a 12.16 finish, including 1.8 in a damning final term.
Even still, late inclusion Sam Weideman had the chance to save the night for the Dees, only to add to the waywardness with a stray set shot in the dying seconds following a contested grab.
The latest defeat leaves Melbourne with just three wins from 11 rounds and as good as out of the finals race, a season after progressing to a preliminary final.
"We're obviously frustrated," Goodwin told reporters.
"It's probably a bit of the story of our season in a lot of ways. We had lots of inside 50s and I thought our efficiency (going) inside 50 was a lot better, but in the end it was just the accuracy.
"It was a tale of two halves for us – we were pretty accurate in the first half, then in the second half, we had our opportunities but 1.8 (in the last quarter) and that was the game, really.
"It was pretty even right across the board, except for that stat there."
In fact, the Demons convincingly won contested possessions (148-133), inside 50s (62-45) and marks inside 50 (18-7), yet still found a way to lose.
Goodwin has remained optimistic throughout what is proving a difficult season and remains defiant that his team is close to putting it all together.
"We're seeing more and more of the way we want to play, throughout the last three weeks especially, so there are some good signs in that," he said.
"But we're bitterly disappointed, because that was a game we had good momentum in, we had good scoreboard pressure and we let it slip."
Melbourne's injury list is part of the 2019 narrative, but there are reinforcements on the way, including late withdrawals Christian Salem (illness) and Marty Hore (calf soreness).
Marquee defensive recruit Steven May (groin) starred in his VFL return earlier on Saturday, fellow ex-Sun Kade Kolodjashnij (concussion) played in the same game, and Jake Lever (ankle) is expected to be available next week.
However, Goodwin and co. quit discussing September some time ago.
"It hasn't even crossed our mind for a while," he said.
"We're just worried about playing some really good, consistent footy. There are things in our game, and I think our supporters will agree, that are starting to come back.
"We just have to do it for longer and more often and really maximise some of the things we're doing."