Ross Lyon's season of exploration at St Kilda has hit a dark patch of the AFL jungle.
With captain James Sicily running rampant in defence, Hawthorn stunned the Saints to win Saturday's Marvel Stadium clash by 10 points.
The 12.16 (88) to 12.6 (78) boilover meant the Saints head into their mid-season break on the back of an uneven month.
After winning five of their opening six games, St Kilda have lost three of their past five.
Had they held off Hawthorn, the Saints would have held a top-four spot midway through the season.
Lyon has said frequently that his first year back coaching the Saints is about exploring the potential of the team and after Saturday, there remains more questions than answers.
Jack Higgins could have iced the game for St Kilda midway through the last quarter, but he dropped a sitter of a mark in front of goal when they led by 13 points.
Instead, Hawthorn rallied from a 20-point deficit early in the last term to kick the last five goals of the game and nail their third win of the season.
"It (the Higgins moment) would have been part of pinching it - in saying that, I think we got our right whack," Lyon said.
"Is it about right? I don't know. Should we be 1-10? Eleven straight?
"You get what you deserve, so we've worked really hard. I think they'll be stung.
"The action I saw isn't what we've tried to implement and coach all year. If we put our toe in the water to do it a different way, we've been exposed quickly."
Hawthorn dominated the first half, but kicked a wasteful 4.10 and the Saints were level at the main break when they should have been five goals down.
It looked like St Kilda were gaining control during the third term, but Hawthorn refused to yield and eventually were able to storm home for their third win of the season.
"If they're the 17th-worst team in the competition, then the competition's not only in rude financial health, it's in rude health for competitiveness," Lyon said.
Apart from showing signs of life for the rebuilding team, the win was also significant for club morale as Hawthorn continue to deal with the fallout from their racism saga.
Three days ago, chief executive Justin Reeves resigned for health reasons in the midst of a tumultuous time for the Hawks.
"I was really proud of our strength of character, to be able to play the right way, regardless of external noise," said coach Sam Mitchell.
Apart from Sicily's 42-possession masterclass, veteran Luke Breust kicked the last goal of the game, giving him three for the afternoon and 499 for his outstanding career.
Dylan Moore was also pivotal in the last term, while Max King kicked four goals for the Saints.
Adding to a dirty afternoon for St Kilda, Hunter Clark suffered a knee injury.