THIRTY-NINE points down.
And yet there remains a slither of light poking through the finals door for Carlton thanks to Matthew Cottrell's heroics.
BLUES v SWANS Full match coverage and stats
The fifth-gamer nailed a set shot with two minutes left to play in Carlton's eventual five-point win over Sydney, but the final score line doesn't tell the story of how unlikely the triumph was.
Sydney piled on the first seven goals of the game, but David Teague's men rallied to kick four majors before half-time to build the foundations for the 8.8 (57) to 8.4 (52) victory.
Swans forward Lewis Taylor drew a high tackle from Blues skipper Patrick Cripps in the final minute of the game, but squandered his set shot and cost the Swans a chance to draw level.
Sam Walsh had spent 86 per cent of his minutes prior to this game playing on the wing, but starred as he was thrust into the middle with 25 disposals and a game-high 584 metres gained.
Ollie Florent (15 disposals) was the only Swan to kick a goal after the initial burst, while forward-turned-defender Tom McCartin did an admirable job on Harry McKay for most of the evening.
With Melbourne and GWS dropping key games in round 16, Carlton will need to win its remaining two matches against Adelaide and Brisbane and rely on a string of other results to play finals football.
Sydney faces a tough end to the season with premiership contenders Brisbane and Geelong to come.
Cottrell steps up for Nick Duigan day
It's seven years to the day since Nick Duigan became a Carlton cult hero after kicking four goals against Richmond in the 2013 elimination final victory. That win sent the Blues through to the semi-finals to face the Swans, where Luke Parker jagged three goals to end the Duigan-inspired festivities. Matt Cottrell only registered nine disposals for the game, but the man who got his chance as a pre-season supplemental selection stepped up as the new cult hero for the Blues. His celebration was memorable and he told Fox Footy post-game that he was channeling the "Greek Freak" (basketball superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo).
Cripps gets the points in battle of the bulls
When the chips were down it was Carlton superstar Patrick Cripps who led the fightback. The co-captain racked up seven disposals, two clearances and a goal in the second quarter alone to keep the Blues in touch. Sydney put its fellow midfield bull Josh Kennedy on Cripps around the centre square, but he couldn't contain the gun Blue.
From guarding NBA superstars to a dream baggers debut
Six years ago Carlton debutant Matthew Owies was lining up alongside Collingwood Category B rookie Tom Wilson for Australia in the 2014 FIBA Under 17's World Cup Final. The two former basketballers faced off against the likes of Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum, Denver Nuggets scoring machine Jamal Murray and Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura across the tournament. Fast-forward to round 16, 2020 and Owies found the going tough in his first AFL appearance. The former point guard finished the evening with five disposals but it will be a game he won't forget.
CARLTON 0.4 4.4 6.9 8.9 (57)
SYDNEY 3.0 7.2 8.3 8.4 (52)
Carlton: McKay 2, Fisher, Walsh, Cripps, Casboult, Newnes, Cottrell
Sydney: Florent 2, McLean, Reid, McInerney, Hayward, Taylor, Dawson
Carlton: Walsh, Cripps, Petrevski-Seton, Weitering, Setterfield, De Koning
Sydney: Lloyd, Florent, Dawson, Kennedy, McCartin, Cunningham
Carlton: Martin (calf)
Sydney: Blakey (shoulder)