Wellington Phoenix are in a bind.
Central Coast have snapped an 11-game winless run, defeating Wellington 1-0 to climb – at least briefly – out of the A-League abyss.
Daniel De Silva popped up in first-half injury time to score a goal that might end up saving the Mariners from the wooden spoon.
Entering Friday night’s fixture in ninth and equal on points with the last-placed Phoenix, the Mariners sorely needed all three in Gosford.
While they hardly put their Kiwi visitors to the sword, the laboured victory lifts Paul Okon’s battlers into eighth and, more importantly, stops them slipping rock bottom for the first time since round one.
“It’s been a long time,” Okon said.
“If I’m honest, it’s been too long – we should have had more wins.
“But we’ll enjoy this one tonight and move on pretty quickly to a very tough away trip to Perth in two weeks.”
The Phoenix clearly arrived with a plan to sit off and counter-attack, but were victims of their own trepidation and demonstrated little in the way of cohesive moments in transition.
Sarpreet Singh, in his second career start, took a wild skyward swing while Dylan Fox headed well over the bar in Wellington’s only real chances before Roy Krishna sparked to life after the break.
The Mariners enjoyed most possession and worked the ball into good areas but rarely threatened with any real certainty.
De Silva’s provider Andrew Hoole shone as the Mariners’ primary attacking outlet and marginally missed a drive from distance, while Alan Baro and Wout Brama were easily denied by Tando Velaphi.
The hosts’ persistence finally paid off close to halftime.
Hoole engaged Trent Buhagiar in a lovely one-two before cleverly picking out De Silva’s run, the playmaker catching the ball on the volley and flicking home off the outside of his boot.
Had the Phoenix exercised more conviction, they might have left with something, but Darije Kalezic’s side made it easy for a Mariners outfit who only last week blew a two-goal lead over 10-man Adelaide.
Krishna rattled the crossbar – though a teammate was offside – and then embarked on a promising solo run only to find the side netting.
The Mariners were searching for a second goal and Hoole’s 69th-minute free-kick appeared to be it, until substitute Blake Powell’s header hit the upright and was somehow cleared off the line by Andrew Durante.
That turned into a Phoenix breakaway and a brilliant cross-goal Krishna ball as Andrija Kaluderovic gave the side netting another workout.
Dutch midfielder Tom Hiariej was subbed off 15 minutes from time with what Okon thought might be a hamstring injury as the Mariners dug in to weather a late Wellington onslaught.