Illawarra player-coach Dave Nolen was left to rue another poor start as struggling St George Dragons completed the double over the Lions with an 11-point win at North Dalton Park on Saturday.
The Lions headed into round 11 just a win off fifth spot but were punished for a flat first half in an 8.6 (54) to 6.7 (43) defeat.
Eighth-placed St George have won only three games all season, but two have come against the Lions.
"Both games we've handed it to them, had our chance to win and didn't take it," Nolen said.
"I can't put my finger on what it is with our starts but we came out flat, had a flat period in the second term before were really showed up in the third.
"Too many guys are waiting for a teammate to do something, instead of getting in there and doing it themselves.
"The third quarter was awesome and I thought we were going to run them down but the wind really got up and the game deteriorated as a result."
The Dragons had seven scoring shots to three in the first term, and booted three goals to one in the second quarter to lead by 21 points at half-time.
Illawarra cut the deficit to just eight points at three quarter-time, but couldn't maintain scoreboard pressure in a scrappy final term.
Jake Hogarth booted three goals and was among Illawarra's best in his first game back from a serious ankle injury, while teenagers Braydon Greenwood and Christos Panagakos were outstanding.
The Lions have a third straight home game on Sunday against top-four side UTS Bats in a huge AFL triple-header at North Dalton Park.
The Lions begin the day with a 9.30am start against the Bats, followed by the Sydney Swans Reserves taking on Ainslie and then South Coast seniors premiers Wollongong facing leaders Kiama in a top-of-the-table clash.
"Finals from here is going to be tricky, but we have to keep our heads up and go out and beat the Bats," Nolen said.