Adelaide's season took a damaging turn in its 32-point loss to Carlton on Saturday night, with Crows spearhead Taylor Walker suffering a knee injury.
The Crows' star goalkicker landed awkwardly in the first term when he attempted to spoil a mark and immediately grabbed at his right knee before being helped from the field.
He was subbed out of the game, reappearing later with ice on his knee while sitting on the bench to see his side fall to its 17.13 (115) to 12.11 (83) defeat at the MCG.
Walker loomed as the only man capable of leading the Crows to victory, having started the game in potent form with four early marks and as the club's single goalkicker in the first quarter.
His absence with a suspected ligament injury exacerbated the gap between the sides, with Carlton enjoying its second consecutive win under coach Mick Malthouse following last week's breakthrough victory over West Coast.
The injury overshadowed a win which the Blues might have expected to come easier after Walker went down.
The Blues seemed set to run away with the win after leading by 41 points at three-quarter time. But in a brave showing, the Crows didn't stop, slamming on five consecutive goals in the final term to get within 17 points.
Clever forward Matt Jaensch was the catalyst for the Adelaide recovery, booting three second-half goals and setting up another few opportunities.
But just as the Crows were pressing closer, the ball swung to the other end of the ground at the 20-minute of the final quarter.
It found its way to Chris Yarran, who sidestepped opponent Brent Reilly and snapped a match-sealing goal.
Yarran, with three goals, and Jeff Garlett, with four, were two of Carlton's best, along with Andrew Walker (32 disposals), Heath Scotland (26) and Chris Judd (23).
But it was a win where contributions were evenly spread, and generally underpinned by one constant: run. The Blues' love of taking the game on – they had more running bounces in the first four rounds than any other side – cut up the Crows in the first half.
Their fleet of small forwards helped them to a 28-point lead by the first break, and they appeared set to keep slicing through Adelaide's defence. The Crows weren't doing enough to stop them, either.
Brenton Sanderson's side, which focused so heavily last year on improving its defensive elements, laid only one tackle in the opening 12 minutes of the game.
That mindset changed thereafter.
As well as turning around the tackle count in the second quarter (the Crows had 20 to Carlton's eight), Andy Otten created a contest near goal, Patrick Dangerfield started to get creative, and the Crows began to take advantage of some Carlton lapses.
The Blues were also limited by injury after Bryce Gibbs was subbed out of the contest at half-time with a reported tight hamstring, but they found enough answers to secure their second victory of the season.
CARLTON 6.3 9.5 13.8 17.13 (115)
ADELAIDE 1.5 3.6 6.9 12.11 (83)
Carlton: Garlett 4, Yarran 3, McLean 2, Judd, Murphy, Carrazzo, Simpson, Gibbs, Scotland, Armfield, Betts
Adelaide: Otten 3, Jaensch 3, Walker, Vince, Douglas, Petrenko, Jacobs, Lynch
Carlton: Walker, Judd, Armfield, Scotland, McLean, Yarran, Simpson, Murphy
Adelaide: Jaensch, Sloane, Rutten, Kerridge, Vince, Douglas
Adelaide: Walker (knee), Brown (concussion)
Carlton: Eddie Betts replaced Bryce Gibbs at halftime.
Adelaide: Rory Laird replaced Taylor Walker in the first quarter.
Umpires: Margetts, Stewart, Ryan
Official crowd: 44,711 at the MCG.
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