Reigning Asian Champions Kashima Antlers put on a clinic at Kashima Soccer Stadium, overpowering Newcastle Jets physically and mentally to roll out 4-1 winners.
While the Jets are still a chance of scraping an A-League finals berth after a much-needed 2-1 win over Melbourne City, a playoff victory over the J-League powerhouse and a group-stage berth would have arguably proven much sweeter.
But when Sho Ito gave Kashima the advantage after 18 minutes, the straining floodgates seemed to have opened. Bar a moment of individual brilliance from Roy O'Donovan's right-boot, Newcastle had offered nearly nothing.
However, as the Jets played quickly through the lines and showed a little mettle in shaping up a Kashima defender, they were consistently rewarded - Ronny Vargas benefitting from a stroke of luck to tuck home an equaliser minutes later.
Unfortunately for Newcastle, that's about as creative as they mustered. Unanswered strikes from Yashuto Yamamoto and a brace to Brazillian import Serginho showed the gulf in class one might have expected between the ACL winners and the A-League's seventh-ranked side.
There was little room for an Ernie Merrick manouevre after the match, the typically straight forward Scot telling it like it was: Newcastle face a gulf in class to Asia's best, enough said.
"Kashima were far too strong, they were very sharp and technically very good," Merrick said.
"Everytime they got near our goals they outplayed us, so the better team won today."
Glen Moss - 7
Pulled off some fantastic reaction-stops to hold Kashima's relentless forward line at bay, pity his defenders were often motionless in response. It's rare that a goalkeeper cops four goals and can still hold his head up high, but there was little to fault Moss for - anything he could realistically stretch an experienced paw to, he did with aplomb.
Bonus points for giving his defenders hell every time they deserved it. Happened a little too often.
Nikolai Topor-Stanley - 6
Left looking a little immobile by a pacey, intricate Antlers' attack, but he steadied as the match wore on and eventually rose to command the sort of aerial presence you'd expect from the big defender.
Pity he couldn't impress similar dominance a little closer to the ground.
Nigel Boogaard - 7
Defensive giant, rambunctious in every challenge and arguably the Jets' most effective in the first half.
While he slowed a little in the second - he was one of the Jets' busiest all match, and one of their most consistent ball movers - copping a tired, disappointing penalty for stamping on Serginho was a rough mark on an otherwise strong performance.
In hindsight, these regular brainfades are arguably Boogaard's largest weakness. Otherwise he's a fantastic leader.
Johnny Koutroumbis - 5
Looked exhausted after the opening 20 minutes and fell asleep for Kashima's second goal, letting Shuto Yamamoto stroll straight past him.
He recovered slightly towards the end and it's worth mentioning, delivered a textbook sliding challenge on Hiroki Abe after the exciting winger looked to leave him stranded, but it wasn't a strong performance.