Adelaide United coach Michael Valkanis said their horror defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers in mid-season marked the beginning of the end.
Valkanis believes his side's Round 12 disaster against the eventual minor premiers was the writing on the wall for the Reds, who were ousted from the A-League finals on Sunday with a 2-1 elimination final loss to Brisbane Roar at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Nudging top spot at the time, United were thumped 6-1 by the Wanderers four days before Christmas and never recovered.
The faltering Reds won just one of their last eight matches, seemingly worn down after a gruelling 2012 Asian Champions League campaign which helped Adelaide gain early-season momentum and get a jump on many of their rivals.
"It's been a long season," Valkanis said. "The ACL was part of it as well.
"We had a good ACL. We started a lot earlier than all the other A-League clubs.
"We probably played 10-12 games more than everyone else.
"That helped kick-start our A-League season and we were ahead of a lot of teams.
"In Round 12, things started not going too well.
"That's when teams started overtaking us and we were losing a lot of games (after that)."
Valkanis was left to bemoan a wasted season and a frustrating elimination against the Roar, against whom the Reds conceded two sloppy goals.
"To concede a goal from a set piece, we should never concede that.
"The second one was a bit of ball watching.
"In finals you can't afford to do that.
"The second half, again, we took the game to them and it was a little bit better.
"We had some chances but couldn't put them away."
Valkanis appeared rankled at remarks in Adelaide's press today from his predecessor John Kosmina, with whom he reportedly shared a strained relationship, but the incumbent refrained from biting back.
In his weekly newspaper column, Kosmina smashed his old club, branding Jon McKain as 'Batman, charging around getting into fights', claimed playmaker Dario Vidosic is 'a wasted talent' and took a shot at Valkanis for being 'more conservative in his tactics than I was as a coach'.
"He (Kosmina) is entitled to say what he wants," said Valkanis, holding fire.
"It's his opinion. I prefer not to speak about what I think."
Valkanis also declined to immediately enter his hat into the ring for the full-time coaching gig next season, preferring to wait for a more appropriate time before weighing up his options.
"Not now," the interim manager said. "We're very disappointed with this result.
"We'll let the dust settle. It's about the club today - our season's over.
"It's not about individuals."