North Melbourne has suffered a disappointing 72-point loss to Essendon at Marvel Stadium on Sunday.
While the Roos briefly rallied after the main break, the Bombers' 13 individual goalkickers – led by three apiece from Peter Wright, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti and Harry Jones – proved to be too many in the 22.9 (141) to 10.9 (69) victory.
The Dons' midfield trio of Darcy Parish (36 disposals, 11 clearances), Zach Merrett and Andy McGrath (31 apiece) set the tone early, with their work-rate, decisions and execution by foot setting them apart.
North Melbourne came into the match on a high, having finally broken through for its first win last week against Hawthorn, but the optimism evaporated by the first break, conceding six goals and sitting 27 points adrift.
Despite Ben Cunnington (34, nine clearances) and Tarryn Thomas' (21 and five) efforts at centre bounces, the Roos lacked an effective marking target in attack during the first half, with most of their scores coming from scrappy play, rather than marks and set shots.
North Melbourne rallied somewhat after going into the main break 50 points behind, holding the Bombers to four goals in the third term while moving the ball with greater speed.
It resulted in five goals for the quarter, along with two stunning contested marks from the nuggetty Cam Zurhaar, reducing the margin to 30 at three-quarter time.
North Melbourne veteran ruckman Todd Goldstein (rolled right ankle) and key forward Nick Larkey (lower left leg) received treatment for minor injuries but played out the game.
Matched up against Goldstein, Andrew Phillips was solid in his 50th game – a milestone which has taken the now-Essendon ruckman nine-and-a-half seasons and three clubs to reach – scoring a goal to kick off the third term and celebrating with style.
Zurhaar's second-half heroics
The North Melbourne forward was symbolic of his side's resurgence in the second half. Having recorded five disposals to the main break, he sprang to life when play restarted. Zurhaar took three strong contested marks – including a spectacular effort on the wing – giving the Roos' fans something to cheer about, finishing with 13 touches and 1.2 for the game.
ESSENDON 6.4 11.5 15.6 22.9 (141)
NORTH MELBOURNE 2.1 3.3 8.8 10.9 (69)
Essendon: Wright 3, Jones 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 3, Hooker 2, Cox 2, Waterman 2, McGrath, Zaharakis, Snelling, Perkins, Phillips, Langford, Hind
North Melbourne: Garner 3, Campbell 2, Thomas 2, Cunnington, Walker, Zurhaar
Essendon: Parish, Merrett, McGrath, Redman, Hind, Wright
North Melbourne: Cunnington, Thomas, Ziebell, Atley, Garner
North Melbourne: Nil
Essendon: Brayden Ham (unused)
North Melbourne: Bailey Scott (unused)
Crowd: TBC at Marvel Stadium