Melbourne face a monumental task to qualify for their first Super Rugby finals campaign after a humbling 66-0 loss to a rampant Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
While the machinations of the top eight are still to unfold over the weekend, the Rebels must find a way to regroup ahead of next Friday night's must-win clash at AAMI Park against the Chiefs.
Last season the Rebels had a narrow final round loss and ended up missing the play-offs on points-differential.
"We know how good they are as a team but the disappointing thing is that we didn't play the way we wanted to play and the way we know we can play," Melbourne skipper Dane Haylett-Petty said.
"Defence was poor and we gave a very good attacking team way too much possession so credit to the Crusaders.
"Luckily we get the chance to bounce back next week and we're still in with a chance."
Melbourne travelled to Christchurch, where the Crusaders are now unbeaten in 28 matches, without star halfback Will Genia due to the Wallabies rest rotation policy. They also had to start with in-form Test winger Marika Koroibete on the bench under the same guidelines and the Rebels desperately missed them both.
They lacked the game smarts of Genia while Crusaders winger Braydon Ennor ran amok with two first-half tries, both set up by the brilliance of their five-eighth Richie Mo'unga.
With so much on the line, Melbourne delivered one of their worst performances of the season and were no match for the reigning premiers and runaway competition leaders.
In a clumsy, error-ridden showing, they missed 38 tackles and when they did have the ball, too often panicked under pressure although the Crusaders deserved some credit with their suffocating defence.
The home side led 26-0 at half-time with their last try a telling blow after Rebels halfback Michael Ruru bizarrely opted to kick down-field after the half-time hooter rather than find touch.
The Crusaders made them pay with Mo'unga gathering the ball and himself kicking ahead for a charging Ennor, who beat the Rebels' defence to touch down for second of three for the night.
His opposite winger Sevu Reece also finished with a hat-trick among the haul of 10 to extend his lead at the top of the Super Rugby try-scorers.
The Crusaders hit the 50 point mark after 60 minutes when fullback David Havili crossed for his second, again set up by Mo'unga.
Melbourne playmaker Quade Cooper, who also started on the bench, replaced new recruit Matt Toomua late in the game but like many of his teammates, had little impact.
The 66-point margin was their worst ever loss to the Crusaders - topping a 85-26 loss in Christchurch in 2016.