North Ballarat City's top three hopes this season are shot to bits despite a gutsy effort against top of the table Sunbury at Eureka Stadium on Saturday.
The black and whites fell five points short as the Lions won 8.16 (64) to 8.11 (59) after Tristan Cartledge narrowed the margin to less than a goal with three minutes remaining.
North City had led by two points at the final change but Jamie Lobb kicked two goals in the final term to give the ascendency to the visitors.
The Lions retained control of the ball in the final minutes of the game to secure the four premiership points.
Jay Cheep and Pat Cariss were outstanding for the victors, while Jason McNamara was tireless for the black and whites.
Ballarat strengthened its own top three claims, demolishing Melton South 27.13 (175) to 14.16 (100) in a shootout at Alfredton Oval.
Redan overcame its own inaccurate kicking to defeat Melton 9.25 (79) to 4.5 (29), while East Point was too strong for Sebastopol 25.17 (167) to 6.3 (39).
Darley triumphed over Lake Wendouree 13.14 (92) defeated Lake Wendouree 8.9 (57).