Down 1-0 at halftime and rarely threatening for 78 minutes in front of just 4508 fans, the Central Coast Mariners scored twice in the space of three minutes to secure an unlikely win on Saturday against the in-form, second-placed Adelaide United.
Central Coast, who were coming off a 5-1 loss to Sydney, equalised after a tame shot on goal from Nick Fitzgerald hit the arm of Reds defender Michael Marrone in the 78th minute.
Fitzgerald’s subsequent penalty shot in the 80th minute was blocked by Eugene Galekovic but Fitzgerald slotted the rebound through the legs of the Reds’ goalkeeper to score.
Josh Rose then gave the hosts the three points after running onto a chipped cross from Mitchell Duke in the 83rd minute and banging home his strike from close range.
The win was a much-needed boost for the Mariners, who were seven points shy of the top six before the round-16 game.
It was an opportunity missed for the Reds in their hunt for the minor premiership.
The visitors had a stranglehold on the game with their speed, touch and passing in midfield but could not land the knockout blow.
Awer Mabil converted the Reds’ early dominance into a lead in the 29th minute.
The Kenyan-born 19-year-old had a stinging shot blocked by a diving Liam Reddy before Adelaide quickly won back possession and Sergio Cirio crossed to find Mabil.
His shot then deflected off the lunging foot of Mariners defender Jacob Poscoliero to leave Reddy with no chance of a second save.
Former Real Madrid winger Miguel Palanca made his debut for Adelaide, coming on the 62nd minute for Bruce Djite.
Mariners recruit Fabio Ferreira watched on due to a gentleman’s agreement between the clubs that he would not play against his former team.