Melbourne Victory kept the pressure on Sydney FC in their battle for second spot on the A-League ladder, but they needed a late Georg Neidermeier goal to secure a 2-1 win over lowly Central Coast.
The German's first A-League goal came at an opportune time for Kevin Muscat's side, his 79th minute strike securing all three points at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Ola Toivonen's 12th goal of the season gave Victory a deserved 1-0 lead at half-time, but the upstart Mariners drew level when Matt Simon converted from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.
The result means Melbourne are just two points behind second-placed Sydney FC with two rounds left in the regular season.
"It wasn't a clear focus, we worry about focusing on ourselves," Muscat replied when asked about his club's top-two chances. "We've got to concentrate and put in and let everyone else worry about themselves. From our perspective, we've got to recover now and stay committed and hungry."
Victory will look for maximum points from their remaining clashes with Adelaide United and Western Sydney and hope for a slip by the Sky Blues to claim a second-spot finish that comes with a weekend off and home final.
Having suffered a 4-0 thumping to Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League on the back of a 2-1 Big Blue loss to Sydney FC, Muscat's men sought to take out their frustrations on the Mariners early.
Victory opened in positive fashion, creating several chances, with Japanese star Keisuke Honda in the thick of the action. But it was Toivonen who gave the home side the lead in the 21st minute, the Swede leaving gloveman Ben Kennedy floundering when he got the ball back from Elvis Kamsoba inside the box to finish a superbly-crafted move.
Victory were left to rue missed opportunities when Thomas Deng was adjudged to have brought down Simon inside the penalty area. Victory renewed their efforts but somehow the worst defence in the league, having conceded 62 goals before round 25, frustrated their attempts to restore their lead before Neidermeier bundled home a Barbarouses cross.
The loss also consigns Central Coast to a last-placed A-League finish.
"There was a lot more endeavour there in the second half and they probably followed instructions a little bit more," interim boss Alen Stajcic said. "I thought our first half was pretty poor and we didn't really follow our game plan. But in the second half I thought we applied ourselves a lot better and we had more discipline with and without the ball."
The result stretched the longest unbeaten run in the A-League to 18 matches, with Sunday's clash in front of 16,158 fans taking place six years to the day since the Mariners last defeated Victory.