The Murray Bushrangers relinquished a 43-point lead at the final change to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at Ikon Park on Sunday.
Managing to add only a solitary point in the final term, Murray could not hold out a rampaging Greater Western Victoria Rebels side and was eventually felled by a goal.
The 10th-placed Rebels were able to engineer the upset through a harder attack on the ball in the dying minutes of the contest.
‘‘It was a really disappointing last quarter, we got out to a pretty good position in the game,’’ coach Leon Higgins said.
‘‘We knew our opponent had the scoring end in the last, but we didn’t handle their momentum and couldn’t win our own ball.
‘‘Our lack of ability to win the contested ball (really cost us).’’
Barooga rising star Daniel Johnston was again the spearhead in attack for the Bushrangers, taking his season tally to 45 by booting another four goals in the loss.
‘‘He has been a good continued focal point for us,’’ Higgins said.
‘‘We played him in the ruck for a bit as well, so it was good to showcase that side of his game.’’
Johnston has kicked 18 majors in his past three games for Murray to stamp his authority on the TAC Cup competition and eight teammates joined him in hitting the scoreboard against the Rebels, including Jordon Butts (Shepparton), Pat Warner (Benalla) and Shepparton United duo Kyle Clarke and Ed Adams (all with one goal).
Another Demon, Angus Hicks, joined North Albury’s Doulton Langlands as the better Murray players on the field.
‘‘Angus has been terrifically consistent for us all season and is in some good form,’’ Higgins said.
The third-placed Bushrangers led by 19 points at quarter-time and 16 at the main break before piling on six goals to two in the penultimate stanza to seemingly put the game to bed, but could not find a way to close the match out.
Murray will have extra time to dissect the defeat with a development weekend scheduled before it takes on ladder-leader Geelong Falcons in Ballarat.
‘‘We have a really tough game ahead of us in a couple of weeks,’’ Higgins said.
‘‘Some injured and unavailable players will be coming back into the side, so we hope for a stronger performance against the top team.’’
Murray Bushrangers 4.3, 7.5, 13.9, 13.10 (88)
Greater Western Victoria Rebels 2.1, 4.7, 6.8, 14.10 (94)
Murray Bushrangers: Doulton Langlands, Angus Hicks, Will Donaghey, Jacob Koschitzke, Nick Murray, Daniel Johnston.
Murray Bushrangers: Daniel Johnston 4, Jy Lane 2, Jake Bradshaw, Kyle Clarke, Ed Adams, Noah Amery, Pat Warner, Jordon Butts, Doulton Langlands.