Melbourne City’s charge towards the top end of the A-League table has kicked up a notch with a 2-0 win over competition leaders Central Coast.
Jamie Maclaren opened the scoring in the 31st minute, with Nathaniel Atkinson adding a second in the 56th to help City to their fifth win on the bounce.
The Mariners retain top spot but now have Adelaide (22 points), Western Sydney (22) and City (21) breathing down their necks, while Macarthur FC (20) are also lurking.
City dominated from the outset in teeming rain at AAMI Park but copped an early blow when centre-back Nuno Reis suffered a groin injury and was replaced by midfielder Adrian Luna in the 20th minute.
But City struck 11 minutes later when Connor Metcalfe released Florin Berenguer with a delightful ball and the Frenchman had the composure to square it for Maclaren, who caressed a shot home.
With his 11th goal of the season, Maclaren became the fastest player in Australian national league history to 90 goals, reaching the milestone in his 136th A-League game.
The Socceroo also drew level with Archie Thompson in third place on the all-time A-League goal scorers list.
Only Mariners goalkeeper Mark Birighitti stopped the hosts from doubling their lead before half-time.
Birighitti denied Maclaren at his near post in the 33rd, then got fingertips to a Luna effort a minute later before rejecting Luna’s 35th-minute header.
The Mariners came out of the break with more intensity, but City struck again.
Atkinson dispossessed Jack Clisby inside his defensive half then slipped the ball to Andrew Nabbout, who charged forward, cut inside and had a shot blocked.
The ball spilled out to Atkinson, who reacted fasted to dink it home.
Birighitti then stopped City adding a third, denying Nabbout’s powerful shot in the 61st minute before miraculously batting away Maclaren’s follow-up header.
Play was stopped in the 82nd minute for a VAR review on an 80th-minute challenge from Metcalfe on Mariners striker Alou Kuol, with Central Coast adamant it was a penalty.
But referee Chris Beath upheld his original call, with City holding on for a 2-0 win.