CENTRAL Coast Mariners have gone three points clear at the top of the A-League table while condemning champions Brisbane Roar to their fourth straight loss with a 2-1 win at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The win, the Mariners' fifth straight and first at Suncorp since October 2009, takes last season's runners-up to an outright lead at the top of the competition ladder and will go some way to repaying the pain inflicted in their grand-final penalty-shootout loss.
The out-of-form Roar surged out of the starting blocks full of determination, but the optomism lasted just minutes before the visitors took the wind out of their sails with the first of their two first-half goals arriving in just the sixth minute.
Brisbane defused the dangerous Bernie Ibini only for Michael Theoklitos to make a meal of his goal kick, passing directly to the feet of Mustafa Amini, who trapped and fired, scraping his long-range effort in off the underside of the bar, leaving the experienced Roar stopper red-faced.
Pumped up with their early one-goal advantage, the visiting Mariners began to push further into the ascendancy, reading the Brisbane passing game and building good field position from the turnovers.
Central Coast's Matt Simon botched two chances in the final five of the first half, before the Mariners doubled their lead through Pedj Bojic, who took another great through-ball and guided his shot past Theoklitos with great composure.
Brisbane were the dominant side through the final 45, building posession and finding their passing game as the visitors began to slow, resuting in an 82nd minute deficit-slasher through super-sub Kofi Danning.
The Roar came again and again through the final 10, attacking freely at last and creating chances to ensure the 10,006 in attendance were kept on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
Missing skipper Matt Smith in the centre of defence, the Brisbane back four struggled throughout to contain the pace of Central Coast bolters Amini and Ibini.
The Roar had one brief flair in the 24th minute, building through an Issey Nakajima-Farran raid before Matt Ryan was forced to produce a great save from Besart Berisha's close-range dig.
Brisbane were down to 10 men for a brief stint in the first half, as stand-in captain Shane Stefanutto sought off-field treatmet for reported blurred vision. Stefanutto played out the 45 before being replaced by Jack Hingert at half-time.
Amini had a great chance to make it a first-half brace, but after Ibini found the space and crossed to the midfielder at the penalty spot, the one-time strike went soaring high over the bar.
Hingert's first touch was full of danger, as he took on the Mariners' left, driving to the baseline and procuring a corner when his cross went ricocheting off the cover defence.
Brisbane were allowed to work into their game thorugh the first stages of the second, holding possession as the visitors looked to consolidate on their two-goal lead.
High-performing Nakajima-Farran was the first to beat Ryan when he pushed the button on a long-range thnderbolt in the 73rd minute, but even then the woodwork was in place to keep the visitors' scorecard unblemished.
Danning's high-impact cameo from the bench was rewarded with less than 10 remaining in the match, as a close-range smash took a deflection off Patrick Zwaanswijk and into the back of the net.
Brisbane Roar 1 (Danning 83')
Central Coast 2 (Amini 6', Bojic 45')
Crowd: 10,006 at Suncorp Stadium