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Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks was at a loss to explain his side's woeful performance as they posted the lowest score in the club's 30-year history in a 63-point hiding from Essendon.
The listless Crows were belted 61-31 in the inside-50 count and managed just one goal in each half of the 11.18 (84) to 2.9 (21) defeat on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.
The pitiful tally was three points shy of Adelaide's previous worst score and was also the lowest-ever total by any team in 971 AFL games at the Docklands venue.
"It goes against the body of work that we've put together for the year," Nicks said.
"It's one out of the box that I can't explain why the performance was at the level it was at.
"The effort wasn't at the level it needs to be to play AFL footy.
"Unfortunately we, as a young group that have been so proud of what they've put out there so far this season, we embarrassed ourselves tonight on a big stage."
In a further blow, the Crows lost Tom Doedee to concussion after the star defender ran back with the flight of the ball and collided with leading Essendon forward Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti during the first quarter.
The Bombers lost Kyle Langford to a hamstring injury and were wasteful in front of goal, but were far too strong in a win that kept them firmly in the finals hunt.
Star midfielder Zach Merrett (35 disposals) accumulated possessions at will as enigmatic Bomber Jake Stringer celebrated his 150th game with 23 disposals, eight clearances and a goal.
Nick Hind, Jordan Ridley, Jayden Laverde and Mason Redman were all strong contributors as Peter Wright kicked two goals.
Emerging teenager Archie Perkins was lively in attack and matched Adelaide's total of 21 points with 3.3 for the night, but should have had made more of his chances in front of goal.
The first-round draft pick nailed a superb checkside kick from the pocket to complete a sweeping move from the wing and showed defensive intent in a performance that could see him join teammates Nik Cox and Harrison Jones as a Rising Star nominee.
Essendon now sit just two points shy of eighth-placed GWS, though the Giants have a game in hand.
The hefty margin gave the Bombers a handy percentage boost - up from 98.7 to 103.4 - and came despite a goalless opening 20 minutes.
"We showed some real maturity and sometimes in those games you can get a little bit frustrated," Essendon coach Ben Rutten said.
"We would've liked to hit the scoreboard a little bit more but I thought the guys stuck at it.
"We kept trying to play the right way for the whole game and I was really pleased with that."