It was late heartbreak for the Mariners on Sunday night as a late Jaushua Sotirio goal helped Wellington Phoenix to all three points at Central Coast Stadium.
The Phoenix took the lead early through Ulises Davila only for the Mariners to strike back just before half time with an Alou Kuol goal, but despite a dominant second half from the hosts it was Wellington who prevailed late on.
Kuol regained his spot in the starting team as Daniel Bouman dropped back to replace the injured Joshua Nisbet, and the Mariners started on the front foot as two Matt Simon chances went narrowly wide under pressure in the opening minutes.
It would be Wellington who took the lead 15 minutes in though as Davila played a neat one-two with Tomer Hemed on the edge of the box before firing a low drive into the bottom corner.
The game swung back and forth and the Mariners hit back minutes before half-time, as Kuol escaped his marker at a corner to head home past Marinovic and bring his side level at the break.
— Central Coast Mariners (@CCMariners) January 31, 2021
There was concern on the stroke of half-time as Oliver Bozanic appeared to dislocate his shoulder, but the Mariners captain had it put back in and returned for the beginning of the second half.
Alen Stajcic held off making changes at the half, and his side came out firing, pinning Wellington back into their own half as the rain came down in Gosford.
Jaden Casella replaced Bouman 10 minutes into the half and shortly after Kuol headed over from close range after a superb ball in from Jack Clisby.
Marco Ureña and Jordan Smylie were introduced for Simon and Kuol entering the final 20 minutes and while the Mariners controlled general play they could not find the finishing touch to complete a number of chances.
The Phoenix made the most of one chance though, with Jaushua Sotirio played in behind, and despite suggestions of a shirt pull on Stefan Nigro, he poked the ball home past Mark Birighitti to give his team a very late lead.
Michal Janota came on for his Mariners debut but was unable to unlock the Wellington defence in the dying minutes as the Mariners fell to a second loss of the season.
Attentions now turn to Wednesday night as Melbourne City visit Gosford, with the game made more special by Matt Simon being set to make his 200th A-League appearance in Yellow & Navy.