Brown made the shock announcement he would retire from football at the end of the season to pursue studies in Britain in the lead-up to Friday night's do-or-die clash.

The New Zealand international was presented with the captain's armband by regular skipper Andrew Durante just prior to kick-off at Westpac Stadium then scored the Phoenix's first goal early in the second half which broke the must-win tie wide open.

A header from Ben Sigmund and a penalty from Paul Ifill eventually got the Phoenix over the line after a rapid double from Joel Chianese got Sydney back on terms in a frantic seven-minute spell.

Brown admitted being given the captaincy had been a special moment for him in what could have been his final game for a club he has played for more than 100 times.

"The emotions were pretty much in check up to that point," the midfielder said of Durante's gesture.

"I tried to give it back to him a couple of times and he wouldn't take it.

"I had to walk away and compose myself a little bit. But it was a really nice touch, a classy touch.

"Dura has done such an outstanding job and for him to give that up in such a crucial game says a lot about the sort of guy he is. It was very special."

Scoring the opener was another special moment for the Wellingtonian to savour.

"I think (Paul) Ifill said to me when I scored that you were writing a fairytale. It was a special one and I'll remember that for a long time," Brown said.

"But there's another game on Sunday. Hopefully we're back here. Hopefully Melbourne Heart give us a little bit of help and we're back here next weekend.

"We talked in our players' meeting about it being a four-game season now. That's one game down, so three to go. You talk about fairytales, winning the A-League would be a good one."

Friday night's result in the end hinged on a penalty that was awarded by referee Chris Beath when Michael Beauchamp brought down Ifill in the box.

Ifill has been scathing of referees in the past few weeks after being denied a penalty in the 2-1 win in Adelaide in February and again in the 1-1 draw with the Heart earlier this month.

"It's just nice to get a penalty at last," said the striker.

"We were due one. I've probably had two more stonewall ones than that. But I still think it was a pen. It was nice to be able to dust myself down and take it.

"It's nice that it was in an important part of the season. I suppose you can look back on the ones they didn't give me and it probably didn't really matter."

Ifill still had to score it though and he admitted after missing an earlier one-on-one chance against Ivan Necevski, his heart was thumping.

"It was a little bit nerve-wracking and they were doing their best to put me off," he said.

"It took a long time. It's nicer when you can just put the ball down and put it in the back of the net.

"I don't like the waiting around. At the end of the day I stuck it in the net. We go on and I'm pretty pleased."