Nine games into their stuttering AFL premiership defence, the Western Bulldogs could well find themselves out of the top eight by the end of the weekend, having been over-run by Geelong.
The Bulldogs came into the three-quarter time huddle at Simonds Stadium on Friday night in the box seat, having booted six goals on the trot to turn a 26-point halftime deficit into a nine-point lead.
But a 50-metre penalty against Travis Cloke which gifted a goal to Cats skipper Joel Selwood early in the final term was a hammer blow.
The hard-tackling home team regained the momentum and ran away to win 16.8 (104) to 12.9 (81).
“I’m not going to hang any of our players out to dry, I’m never going to do that,” said Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge.
“The vast majority, weight of numbers of our group were doing everything they could to win the game.
“Unfortunately we need our 22 week-to-week to have a really consistent and even contribution and we were almost there.
“We had the upper hand, the arm-wrestle was in our favour and we should have gone on and won it.”
A huge positive for the Bulldogs was the excellent return by midfielder Mitch Wallis, who had 26 disposals and kicked a couple of clever goals in his first senior match since breaking a leg in round 18 last year.
“It was great to see him come back like that – it was a strong return,” said Beveridge.
The Bulldogs were also well served by Caleb Daniel and Lin Jong, with the latter showing his versatility by pinch-hitting in the ruck against much bigger opponents.
The eighth-placed Bulldogs slipped to a 5-4 win-loss record and face three more tough games either side of the bye against St Kilda and Melbourne at Etihad Stadium and away to Sydney at the SCG.