It would have surprised few fans to discover but the sudden consistency of the Warriors tonight disappeared like a mirage.
Unbeaten in 80 minutes since being thrashed by the Raiders in May, the Warriors produced a performance reminiscent of that rout as they slumped to defeat against the lowly Rabbitohs.
Expecting a victory that would have solidified their spot in the top eight, the Mt Smart crowd watched in horror as the Warriors shipped five first-half tries to leave their finals hopes hanging by a thread.
With three rounds remaining, Andrew McFadden's men next week visit the lofty Cowboys and, with the middle of the table becoming congested, tonight's defeat was a double blow in being so damaging to the Warriors' points differential.
These Rabbitohs, whose playoff hopes faded long ago, are perhaps better than their record suggests. They still boast the majority of the title-winning team of two seasons ago and they last week pushed the Storm to golden point.
But still, this was an opponent who had lost nine straight games, a speed bump the Warriors were expected to ease over. Instead, they potentially saw their campaign derailed.
The Warriors defended as though they cared little about their finals fate, showcasing all the tendencies that left their season on the verge of ruin after their humbling against the Raiders. Too often directionless in attack, it was when without the ball the truly suffered, exemplified by a forgettable outing from Tuimoala Lolohea.
By the time the fullback was dragged from the field following a woeful effort for the Rabbitohs' sixth try, the exemplary way the Warriors began the game was a distant memory. Patient and accurate in the opening stages, with repeat sets seeing Solomone Kata score the first of his two tries, there was no hint of what was to follow.
"Outside those first 10 minutes, they just dominated field position," McFadden said. "They clearly won the physical battle, their big forwards did a really good job. We were just a little bit off there, they got on the front foot and got some scoreboard pressure on us."
That pressure initially began to build with a couple of unforced errors - first it was Bodene Thompson's routine knock on, then Lolohea's loose pass. Both eventually gave the exceptional Adam Reynolds an opportunity to create and both eventually led to tries.
The Rabbitohs then defended with a physicality that befitted their sizeable forward pack and formed a stark contrast to the Warriors, as poor positioning and a surfeit of space in behind the defensive line allowed Souths to assume total ascendancy.
Their first-half spree featured Reynolds as a central figure and displayed a clinical edge that belied their record, with McFadden admitting the Warriors were aware of the tactics they would face but powerless to do anything about it.
"They had a good plan to kick in behind us and, even though we knew that was coming, they had a desperation to get to the ball first."
The visitors also received a helping hand from their home side, as errors and penalties became commonplace and Souths continually probed at a generous opponent. The Warriors were almost lackadaisical as Joe Burgess grabbed a double and even worse when Greg Inglis crossed right on halftime to establish a 25-point lead.
That advantage rendered the second spell a non-event and left the Warriors requiring short memories and a defensive overhaul ahead of the three games to salvage their season.
"I don't think I saw our performance coming," McFadden said. "It was a bit of a setback for us but we need to move forward pretty quickly."
Warriors 22 (S. Kata 2, M. Vatuvei, J. Tevaga tries; S. Johnson 3 cons)
Rabbitohs 41 (A. Johnston, A Gray, J Burgess 2, G. Inglis, H. Hunt tries; A Reynolds 5 cons, dg, D. Cook con, 2 pens)