North Melbourne have slipped out of the top eight after a tight loss to Essendon in one of the best matches of a high-quality AFL round that gave the ladder a shake-up.
The Kangaroos dropped from eighth to ninth after the 12th-ranked Bombers scored a thrilling 19.11 (125) to 16.12 (108) win at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
North would have improved to sixth with a win but instead find themselves amid seven teams from sixth to 12th that are separated by just six premiership points.
"There will be a sense of missed opportunity with our players and coaches," coach Brad Scott said.
"But you play 22 games in the home-and-away season and you've just got to accumulate as many wins as you can.
"I've said for a number of years that just getting results to go your way and falling into the finals ... it's great to play finals footy but you want to be a team that feels like you belong when you qualify."
Melbourne's mid-season lull continued on Sunday when they slipped to a third-straight loss, this time to St Kilda at the MCG.
The Saints held on for a 18.11 (119) to 18.9 (117) win -- just their third victory of the season.
Brisbane took a step away from the wooden spoon with a shock 55-point thumping of Fremantle at Optus Stadium.
Dockers ruckman Aaron Sandilands was a late withdrawal after straining his calf in the warm-up, while skipper Nat Fyfe injured his right hamstring midway through the second term of the 18.11 (119) to 9.10 (64) loss.
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon says he's unsure about the severity of the injuries.
Reigning premiers Richmond sit one game clear atop the ladder after winning Thursday night's top-of-the-table clash against Sydney.
The Tigers lost Reece Conca to a horror ankle dislocation in the first quarter but were too good for the Swans, beating them 14.9 (93) to 11.1 (67) at the MCG.
Collingwood pushed into some rare air with a 14.15 (99) to 8.12 (60) win over Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium on Saturday night, moving into second spot on the ladder.
GWS were the biggest mover, going from 10th to sixth after edging Hawthorn 13.17 (95) to 13.6 (84) at Spotless Stadium.
The Western Bulldogs dented Geelong's top-four hopes with a thrilling 16.7 (103) to 15.11 (101) triumph at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Harry Taylor had the chance to snatch the win from 25m out but his set shot sailed wide to leave the Cats in eighth spot on percentage.
Adelaide kept their finals hopes alive with a 12.16 (88) to 12.6 (78) win over West Coast at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
The Crows were staring at a fifth-straight defeat when they trailed by 27 points late in the third term before Taylor Walker (three goals and 10 marks) lifted his side to an upset win.
Carlton's Kade Simpson played his 300th AFL game on Saturday but Port Adelaide put a dampener on celebrations with a 13.12 (90) to 10.9 (69) win at the MCG.