Western Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney says his side showed significant progress against Fremantle on Sunday despite succumbing to a 38-point loss.
The Bulldogs were fiercely competitive in the first half and held the more fancied Dockers to a three-point half-time lead at Patersons Stadium.
But the hosts ran away with the contest during a dominant spell of five consecutive goals following the main change, which McCartney said was a reason for frustration.
However, the rookie coach said the performance was a major step forward for his young side, who had lost their previous two matches to Brisbane and Essendon by 58 and 84 points respectively.
"I don't consider this a bad loss," he said.
"I don't buy the theory there's a good loss but it's not like some of the nasty losses we've had this year, we handled that a little bit better.
"I think we made some progressive steps in some areas that have been quite poor for a few weeks. The key thing is to build on that now."
Life does not get any easier for the Bulldogs in the near future though, with Hawthorn their next opponents in a continuation of a run which sees them play their last 11 games against teams above them.
McCartney admitted the Hawks would represent a massive challenge for his 14th-placed side, who now have a 5-9 win-loss record, but said it was one they were looking forward to.
"'Relish' is the word ... we learned an enormous amount today and got a lot done and if we can do that again in the next couple of weeks we'll take another step," he said.
"We're providing some terrific opportunities to some future Western Bulldogs champions and the quicker we can get some games into them and develop them, the quicker we'll be the club we want to be."
The Bulldogs horror schedule is in stark contrast to Fremantle's upcoming run, with the Dockers having the chance to climb into the top eight thanks to consecutive games against strugglers Melbourne, GWS and Port Adelaide.
Victory saw Fremantle improve to 7-7, level with four other teams fighting for eighth spot.
But coach Ross Lyon said his main focus was on improvement from a performance he described as 'frustrating', apart from their dominant third term.
"We've got a lot of 40 or 50-game players and 20-game players that have to start playing with a hard consistent edge and attitude and a hard discipline to what we want," he said.
"When we play with a hard edge, and with the method we want, we're a solid team.
"The important thing is they responded and found a method that we'd like to go forward with."Lyon said he was 'really optimistic' key defender Zac Dawson would return from a knee injury to face the Demons at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.