ESSENDON'S season is on life support, with a 32-point loss against the Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium leaving them with a 1-6 record ahead of a crunch Saturday night clash against arch-rivals Hawthorn.
Excluding 2016, when Essendon relied on top-ups after 12 senior-listed players were banned for doping violations, forcing them to miss the entire season, the last time the club had just one win after seven rounds was in 2006.
BULLDOGS v BOMBERS Full match coverage and stats
The Dogs, meanwhile, responded from their shock loss to the Crows, notching an important 16.7 (103) to 10.11 (71) win, improving their tally to 3-4.
Matt Guelfi gave the Bombers the perfect start when he converted his set shot from straight in front after two minutes, but Mitch Wallis returned serve moments later.
After Peter Wright opened his account, Wallis added a second, before Lachlan McNeil (three goals) booted his first goal of the year.
The Bombers trailed by four points at quarter-time, with their primary ball-winners Zach Merrett (36 touches) and Darcy Parish (32) both busy.
The Dogs looked the better side for most of the second term and threatened to break the game open on a few occasions.
They kicked the first three goals of the quarter, via Laitham Vandermeer, Robbie McComb (the first of his career) and Zaine Cordy, handing them a 22-point lead.
But the Bombers lifted late, and Wright's second goal meant they trailed by 14 points at the main break.
Essendon started the second half without Nik Cox, who was substituted out due a leg complaint. Dylan Shiel, who was axed during the week but earned a late reprieve, was activated and got busy quickly, amassing nine touches for the quarter.
'REALLY DAMAGING' Frustrated Rutten laments Dons' mistakes
The Bulldogs jumped out of the blocks to start the term, with quick goals to McNeil and 100-gamer Josh Dunkley extending their lead to 26 points.
Essendon needed some inspiration and Kaine Baldwin provided it when he chased down Ryan Gardner, won a free kick and then slotted the first goal of his career.
But the Dogs kicked seven goals to three, and were the much better side, handing them a 36-point edge as the teams swung for home.
The Bombers won the last quarter by four points, but it counts for little when they have just the one victory to their name after seven rounds and have dropped three games on the bounce.
An emotional day for Mitch Wallis
Having missed last week's round six clash against Adelaide in Ballarat after his mother-in-law was tragically killed in a car crash, Mitch Wallis returned to the Dogs' line-up and was influential. He kicked his side's first goal early in the opening quarter, and responded by giving a double fist pump and kissing his black arm band. Wallis added a second goal and finished with 11 touches, before being subbed out of the game late in the second half due to a foot issue.
Dogs win without Naughton influence
For the first time since round 16 last year, when they beat the Roos by 29 points, the Dogs won a game without Aaron Naughton kicking a goal. Naughton was far from terrible, and gave off what would have been an easy shot in the last quarter, but Jordan Ridley did a good job on one of the premier forwards in the game. No doubt Luke Beveridge would be pleased that the Dogs were able to win without Naughton impacting the game, something that has been a rarity in recent times.
Dogs have the wood over the Dons
Between 2011 and 2014, Essendon beat the Western Bulldogs on six consecutive occasions. Since then, however, the tables have well and truly turned, with the Dogs having now won eight of their past nine encounters against the Bombers by an average margin of 50.6 points.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.1 6.3 13.4 16.7 (103)
ESSENDON 2.3 3.7 6.10 10.11 (71)
Western Bulldogs: McNeil 3, Dunkley 2, McComb 2, Wallis 2, Weightman 2, Bontempelli, Cordy, B.Smith, R.Smith, Vandermeer
Essendon: Wright 4, Cutler 2, Baldwin, Draper, Guelfi, Stringer
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Dunkley, McNeil, Bontempelli, Smith, McComb, Treloar
Essendon: Draper, Martin, Parish, Merrett, Ridley, McGrath, Wright
Western Bulldogs: Wallis (foot)
Essendon: Cox (leg)
Western Bulldogs: Josh Schache (replaced Wallis)
Essendon: Dylan Shiel (replaced Cox)
Crowd: 33,677 at Marvel Stadium