The Wellington Phoenix will be ruing a second straight close defeat after going down 2-1 to Sydney FC having controlled large chunks of their A-league contest.
A clever finish by Rhyan Grant gave the defending champions the unconvincing win at home.
Brandon O’Neill’s opener was cancelled out by Ulises Davila midway through the second half before Grant produced his memorable 77th-minute game-winner.
Five days after helping the Socceroos to a six-goal win in Taiwan, Grant flicked a Brandon O’Neill free kick over Stefan Marinovic and just under the crossbar.
It was a cruel defeat for the visitors, who had the momentum for large periods against a side that lacked ruthlessness once ahead.
Ufuk Talay’s team also ended the night with ten men after Liberato Cacace was marched for an ugly challenge on Anthony Caceres in the 79th minute.
Sydney took their foot right off the pedal and the opportunities slowly accelerated for Wellington, who finished with four more shots at halftime.
Jaushua Sotirio had the best of them moments before the break, with his powerful header that drew a diving save from Andrew Redmayne.
The Phoenix gradually grew in confidence and were unlucky not to draw level when David Ball’s 50th-minute snap hit the inside of the post and across goal.
The visitors were finally rewarded for their persistence in the 69th minute when Sotirio cut back for Davila, who shifted to his left and angled past Redmayne.
But the hosts reclaimed the lead against the run of play on Grant’s heroics, before holding on in the final 13 minutes for a gritty triumph.
“I thought we had them on the ropes. We equalised, and obviously the send-off hurt us, going down to ten men,” Talay said.
“Very proud of the performance, to come here against last year’s champions and put on a performance like that.”