Central Coast Mariners' winning run shows few signs of abating with Wellington Phoenix the latest to fall victim to the unfancied A-League leaders.
Central Coast Mariners' firm hold on top spot shows little sign of slipping as last season's A-League wooden spooners eased to a routine 2-0 win over 10-man Wellington Phoenix.
Goals either side of the interval from Matt Simon and influential skipper Oliver Bozanic proved enough to lift the Mariners to a sixth win from eight outings on Sunday.
The New Zealanders, playing in their provisional Wollongong home at WIN Stadium, were partly architects of their own downfall with striker David Ball sent off for a needless challenge.
The Englishman fortunately made only part contact when he dived in on Simon, but the dangerous nature of the challenge was clear and referee Daniel Elder had no hesitation brandishing the red card.
Incredibly, the Mariners now have as many points as they accrued during their entire 26-match campaign last season.
Wooden-spooners in each of the past three seasons, they haven't won more than six matches in a season for seven years.
The Mariners opened the scoring in Wollongong when Marco Urena threaded a superb short pass behind the backline allowing Simon to finish comfortably five minutes before the break.
Midfielder Josh Nisbet pinged a shot against the post within moments of entering the fray at half-time.
And the Mariners were not to be denied as skipper Bozanic slotted home a perfect penalty after Danny De Silva had been brought down.
"I'm very pleased with the result because we know what a tough nut they (Wellington) are to crack and they are very well coached," said Mariners coach Alen Stajcic.
"I thought Wellington started the better of the two teams, but we were coming back into it when the red card came, which obviously changed things a bit."
"A lot of things we did well today but there are a few areas that we can improve on," Stajcic added.
"The challenge now is what it always is - to improve on our deficiencies and keep improving our strengths.
"As good a performance as it was I still think there is quite a bit more scope to improve."
It was another tough day out for the New Zealanders whose early-season form slump - they have now won just one of six matches - has been compounded by the absence of key attacker Tomer Hemed and further injury concerns.
Notably, the New Zealanders ended the match without either centre-backs with Josh Laws and Luke DeVere both forced off through injury.
"Until the send-off I thought we were OK, and even then their opportunities came from our
mistakes," said Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay.
"We might have to adapt to the players we have available for the next game, but we have belief in what we are doing."