Melbourne Victory have been punished for failing to put away Perth Glory, pegged back by the A-League strugglers at AAMI Park.
Victory’s return to the winners’ list must wait at least another week as the two sides swapped penalties in a 1-1 draw.
Besart Berisha’s first-half goal was cancelled out by Diego Castro’s reply after the break.
There was more than a hint of controversy about Victory’s penalty, with Glory keeper Ante Covic appearing to avoid making contact with the Melbourne sharpshooter, only for him to go down anyway.
Covic was furious with the Albanian as well as the referee, and he received a yellow card for his remonstrations.
The setback is a frustrating one for Kevin Muscat’s men, who were hoping for home relief after four defeats in as many away days.
Instead, Kenny Lowe keeps up his fine record against the champions, with only one defeat in seven matches as Glory boss.
The draw also builds on a solid string of results in Perth – including a 1-0 defeat of Victory two weeks ago.
Victory were the aggressors, looking to re-capture the vibe that made them top of the table as recently as last month.
The home side had just a hint of championship-winning swagger about them, with Berisha on the scoresheet and Kosta Barbarouses at his marauding best.
But without Gui Finkler, who pulled up too sore from the Melbourne derby loss to play, Victory couldn’t find a winner.
Glory’s defence seemed intent on giving their opponents a leg-up, with Alex Grant doing his best to put Victory ahead inside the first minute.
Under no pressure, the defender’s backpass had gloveman Covic scrambling and the ball stayed out of the net by the barest of margins.
Marc Warren was lucky to remain on the pitch after a sliding tackle on Barbarouses from behind.
On 24 minutes, Victory had their breakthrough.
Covic strayed far from his goal and leapt to the ball at Berisha’s feet.
Berisha went down and it was enough for the referee to award a penalty, which the Victory man confidently dispatched.
Covic was berated by the 22,544-strong crowd but hammed it up with his antagonists, asking them to sing their jeers even louder.
Victory, who completed more than double Perth’s passes, controlled the contest after the break but couldn’t put the match to bed.
A string of Oliver Bozanic set pieces were Victory’s best route to goal but his effort didn’t have the sting that Finkler might have brought to the occasion.
As long as the score remained 1-0, a square-up seemed likely, and thus it proved.
Josh Risdon’s surging run into the box was brought to an end by Matthew Delpierre’s mistimed intervention.
The French defender has barely put a foot wrong since moving to Australia but did so here, allowing Castro to equalise on 73 minutes.