BENDIGO City is counting the cost of a potentially season-defining 3-0 loss to Melton Phoenix on Saturday.
The Men's State League 5 West newcomers dropped to fifth place on the ladder following a second defeat in three weeks.
Those losses bookmarked a disappointing 2-2 draw against bottom side Wyndham, which has left coach Greg Thomas' squad stranded on 14 points after nine rounds.
Bendigo City now trails top-side Barwon by 10 points, with a gap of eight points to the second-placed Phoenix, whose 3-0 win came on the road at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve.
A horror day for City started early when Alex Dimond put the visitors 1-0 up in the seventh minute.
It was the first of thee for the day from the Phoenix sharpshooter, his second in the 22nd minute ensuring a 2-0 margin at half time.
His third in the 62nd minute put the game well out of reach of Bendigo City, which fell to its second loss of the season.
With Barwon continuing its rampaging form in an 11-0 demolition of Surfside Waves, the Phoenix claiming the points against City and Deakin University extending its recent run of good form in a 1-0 win against Maribyrnong Greens, Bendigo has some work to do in making up some ground.
Focus now turns to this Saturday's clash against West Point, which lost 2-1 to Balmoral on the weekend, and is in sixth place on the league ladder.
In the reserves, Bendigo City lost a top-two shootout against Melton Phoenix 6-5.
An 88th minute goal from Beau Chang broke a 5-5 deadlock to give the Phoenix a crucial win in a seesawing clash.
Darius Thomas and Ryan Merriman contributed two goals apiece for Bendigo City, which, despite the loss, held second position on the ladder on 19 points, level with third-placed Barwon, but five points behind the Phoenix.
In National Premier League junior matches, a mixed weekend for Bendigo City was highlighted by a rousing 4-0 victory against Avondale by the club's under-16s.
Jack Nuttall scored twice, opening City's account in the sixth minute before adding another in the 67th minute, to give City a 3-0 lead.
Jasper Williams (34th minute) and Lachlan Scholtens (78th minute) each contributed one goal for City, which sits seventh on the ladder with a win and a draw from its two matches.
A lone goal from Evie Nuttall was enough to give Bendigo City's under-14s a 1-0 victory on the road against Moreland City and a third-straight win.
It was a great follow up to the previous week's 5-1 win over Werribee City
Bendigo City heads the ladder with an unblemished 3-0 record.
In the under-18s, Bendigo lost to Essendon Royals 3-0; while the under-13s lost 5-1 to Willams Landing.
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