Essendon were stuck in traffic for more than three hours on the way to the Gabba on Sunday and it only got worse once they arrived as Geelong inflicted a 66-point loss that left the Bombers' AFL finals hopes in tatters.
The Bombers conceded 12 first-half goals as the Cats ran rampant and they now need to win both their remaining games and hope Greater Western Sydney lose all three of theirs to finish in the top eight.
With the Giants to play last-placed Adelaide on Tuesday it could be curtains for Essendon but outgoing coach John Worsfold is optimistic that the gap between them and the best isn't as big as the scoreboard suggested.
"Geelong, in terms of their experience tonight, was maybe three seasons per player on average more than us," Worsfold said.
"That's a massive amount to concede.
"When we get our group together we are going to grow pretty quickly on that and yes, there is a gap ... it's not as big as it looked and if they commit to it (game style) and work hard at it over a full pre-season again, the improvement will close the gap dramatically."
Tom Hawkins booted four goals to extend his Coleman Medal lead to 10 as the Cats moved back to second - they can seal a top-four spot by beating Richmond on Friday.
Essendon 20-year-old Irving Mosquito suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the clash.
In the late Sunday fixture, West Coast lost Nic Naitanui (back) before the bounce while Jeremy McGovern (thumb) and Mark Hutchings (hamstring) were injured as they were outlasted by the Western Bulldogs in a scrappy affair.
Jack Darling wasted a late chance to snatch the win with a long set shot, leaving Marcus Bontempelli as the hero in the Bulldogs' two-point victory.
The skipper's shot from 50m sailed through and survived a review to stand as a goal and keep the Dogs' finals hopes alive in a season of fine margins.
Earlier, St Kilda struggled to fight off the challenge of Hawthorn, who lost James Worpel to a shoulder injury when he was crunched by Dean Kent.
The 14-point win in Jarryn Geary's 200th game "wasn't pretty" according to the captain himself but was enough to keep the Saints entrenched in the top eight before a huge clash with the Eagles on Thursday.
Two bursts of goals in the first and third quarters saw Port Adelaide put lowly North Melbourne to the sword on Saturday night and take a step closer to the minor premiership.
However, the comfortable 36-point win at Metricon Stadium came at a cost as Ryan Burton suffered another quadriceps injury.
Zak Butters clipped Jy Simpkin high, putting the dazed North Melbourne midfielder out of action, and the young Port star has been offered a two-week spell on the sidelines by the match review officer.
The previous round wrapped up on Friday night, when Brisbane secured an eight-point win over Collingwood that kept them on track for a top-two spot.
But the Lions lost All-Australian defender Harris Andrews to a hamstring injury and may not see him in action again until deep into the finals.
Australian Associated Press