The Central Coast’s title defence has been left in tatters with a resurgent Wellington inflicting a 4-1 drubbing on the reigning champions on Friday.
It was the fourth straight defeat for the Mariners, their worst losing streak since December 2009, and they now find themselves just hanging onto fifth spot with only seven games remaining.
Wellington on the other hand rebounded from their shock 5-0 loss to Melbourne Heart last week to continue their late finals charge and regain a top-six spot.
Young gun Bernie Ibini put the hosts in front at Central Coast Stadium.
But it all fell apart in the second half as the Phoenix ran rampage.
Kenny Cunningham netted an equaliser straight after the break with keeper Glenn Moss saving a penalty as dangermen Carlos Hernandez and Stein Huysegems scored two goals in two minutes and Jeremy Brockie put the final nail in the coffin.
With Central Coast coach Phil Moss forced into a raft of changes, losing three players to suspension, new recruit Kim Seung-Yong was handed his starting debut and the Korean playmaker proved crucial in creating the opening goal.
Young-gun Ibini got onto a ball from Kim to put the hosts in front in the 20th minute with his second goal in three games.
But it was a determined Phoenix who returned from the break, with Cunningham finding the equaliser a minute into the second half.
The Mariners were gifted the perfect chance to regain the lead less than 10 minutes later when Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante conceded a penalty for a handball in the box.
But All Whites gloveman Moss made sure it didn’t count, saving Mile Sterjovski’s spot-kick.
Hernandez continued to be a threat and finally broke though with a sensational long-range strike in the 65th minute.
The Mariners were again caught on the break just a minute later with Huysegems netting his 10th of the season to become the competition’s leading goal-scorer.
And Brockie, who came on for Hernandez, heaped more misery on the Mariners by pouncing onto a Huysegems pass just moments after taking to the field to score in the 82nd minute.