The Illawarra Lions were competitive but kept goalless after quarter-time in a 48-point loss to Sydney AFL co-leaders Pennant Hills in Saturday's round nine clash at Mike Kenny Oval.
The Lions kicked two goals in the first term to lead by a point at quarter-time but managed just four behinds for the rest of the match in a 9.12 (66) to 2.6 (18) defeat.
The loss left Illawarra in seventh in First Division, with three wins and six losses and needing a major turn of fortunes to make the top five finals.
Illawarra battled hard and restricted the strong Pennants Hills to just four goals by half-time to only trail by 12 points at the main break.
But with 13 players unavailable due to injuries and players undertaking Wollongong University exams, the Lions weren't able to get the ball forward enough and apply concerted pressure on the Demons.
"The first half was very good but unfortunately we couldn't sustain it and, with not enough ball in our forward half, they got on top," Lions player-coach Dave Nolen said.
"We had three guys who hadn't played with us before and that made it tricky and, while they performed well, next weekend against Southern Power we should be a stronger team."