ADELAIDE has secured an important percentage-boosting 112-point belting of Essendon, in a result that heaps more pressure on Bombers coach James Hird.
The Crows overcame a slow start to win 27.9 (171) to 8.11 (59) at Etihad Stadium on Saturday, seeing them push into the top eight and lift their percentage from 104.5 to 111.4.
But just as Adelaide impressed as it continued its surge to the finals by recording the equal eighth-highest score of its history, the Bombers added another chapter to their horror season.
Despite a strong beginning, the Bombers went goalless for nearly an hour of game time across the first, second and third quarters, and then conceded 11 goals in the last term to fall to their biggest defeat under Hird.
It was another damaging loss for Hird and the Bombers, whose season started so promisingly but fell off a cliff when the World Anti-Doping Agency announced its appeal of the verdict to clear the 34 Essendon players at the centre of the supplements saga.
On Friday, Hird said he expected to be coach of the Bombers next year, even as the club works through a wide-ranging review of its football program. However, the club's run of heavy losses will see even more external focus on Hird's position given Essendon's disastrous campaign.
The Bombers have won just two games since round five (against the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne), and their last seven games have included losses of 110 points, 87 points and the Crows' 112-point belting. Their game plan has been confusing, forward structure impotent and tenacity completely absent.
Hird said after the loss he wants to be coach next year despite the run of bad performances, and that the players were "hurting".
"As I sit here right now, I'm really concerned about the players and the disappointment they have in them. That's where my head is at the moment," he said.
"I'm thinking about how we get the players playing well, how we get them confident for next week, and how we give a performance that our supporters will be happy.
"The rest of it is long term, it's bigger picture, but as a coach you've really got to micromanage the things that can help the players."
This time the Crows were the beneficiaries of playing the listless Bombers, cruising to their fourth win in their past five outings and proving how dynamic their forward set-up can be.
Star Eddie Betts was too crafty and clever for the Bombers and kicked five, while captain Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins and star midfielder Patrick Dangerfield all booted three each. Dangerfield's hot run of form didn't abate, with the gamebreaker also collecting 27 disposals.
Rory Laird's consistent season across half-back continued with 31 disposals, and Rory Sloane set the tone with 11 tackles, two goals and 24 disposals from the midfield.
Stand-in Adelaide coach Scott Camporeale said the group had not focused on lifting its percentage, but said he was pleased with the way the group had followed up its strong win over Richmond last week.
"I was really proud of them the way they backed up after last Friday night. It was always a challenge to see whether they could back up that performance and once again I was really pleased from a team point of view that we delivered that," Camporeale said.
"Inside 50s and stuff were going our way (early) we just didn't get a result for those so certainly after quarter-time was more how we wanted to play."
The Bombers had few winners in another disappointing display. Cale Hooker, in his revised role as a key forward, competed hard, kicked two goals and tried throughout. Shaun Edwards excited in patches near goal with some zip and skill, but for the sparse Essendon crowd there was little else positive to take home.
The first quarter was not a sign of things to come. Whether it was a case of the Crows' allowing the Bombers to play with more freedom, or the Bombers breaking loose of their self-imposed shackles, a more attacking style from Hird's team was on hand.
No piece of play better evidenced their early direct approach than David Myers' long left-foot bomb into the goalsquare at the 21-minute mark, which was marked and converted for a goal by Hooker.
But Essendon's dominance in the clearances (15 to four in the first quarter) wasn't reflected on the scoreboard, with the Bombers holding just a six-point lead at the opening break.
But it didn't last long, as Sloane capitalised on excellent Adelaide forward pressure to slot a running shot at goal in the opening two minutes of the second term. Sensing an Essendon team that may have been up for the battle more than it has been the past month, the Crows lifted their intensity in the second term.
The Bombers' answer was as limp as the Crows' was emphatic. Adelaide kicked six goals for the second term and established a 30-point gap at half-time. Many came as a result of Essendon errors and turnovers, but the Bombers weren't threatening goal either, being held to 0.3 for the term.
Adelaide stretched its lead to 58 points to the final change, and pressed home the advantage in the final term. Essendon's loss was compounded by some injury concerns to Jonathan Giles (leg) and Myers (back).
ESSENDON 4.3 4.6 6.10 8.11 (59)
ADELAIDE 3.3 9.6 16.8 27.9 (171)
Essendon: Hooker 2, Dempsey, Laverde, Hibberd, Edwards, Zaharakis, Melsham
Adelaide: Betts 5, Dangerfield 3, Walker 3, Jenkins 3, Sloane 2, Cameron 2, Lynch 2, Lyons, Van Berlo, Atkins, Knight, Crouch, Smith, Jacobs
Essendon: Hooker, Edwards, Myers, Goddard
Adelaide: Dangerfield, Betts, Lynch, Sloane, Laird, Crouch, Jacobs
Essendon: Myers (back), Giles (ankle)
Essendon: Jake Melksham replaced Kyle Langford in the third quarter
Adelaide: David Mackay replaced Jake Lever at three-quarter time
Umpires: Fisher, O'Gorman, Nicholls
Official crowd: 25,914 at Etihad Stadium