Western United lost for the first time in Tasmania on Friday night, going down 3-0 to Wellington Phoenix at UTAS Stadium.
The visitors put the pressure on early and took the lead through Yan Sasse before Kozhidar Kraev and Oskar Zawada made sure of the three points for Wellington.
The result leaves United seven points adrift of the top six but still with nine games to make a late charge up the table.
John Aloisi made one change to the starting XI with Lachie Wales coming back into the line-up in place of Connor Pain.
That meant Noah Botic started alongside Aleksandar Prjiovic as Aloisi opted for the two-pronged attack again
Wellington started slightly the brighter of the two teams with a couple of early shots on target, one which drew and expert save from Jamie Young as the United keeper tipped Yan Sasse’s low effort around the post.
Both sides were on the front foot early as Botic and Prijovic got to work in the final third for United with Wales and James Troisi looking to feed them.
The visitors continued their early momentum, though, and Sasse wasn’t to be denied at the second time of asking as his low drive from just outside the box fizzed into the bottom right corner in the 19th minute.
The remainder of the opening period went by largely without incident as Wellington became content with their lead and United struggled to break down their defensive structure.
There were some flashes of interplay up front for the Green and Black and a few half chances from set pieces before half-time. James Troisi went close from a direct free-kick and Tongo Doumbia got a clean header on a corner but couldn’t keep it beneath the crossbar.
Aloisi’s men ultimately entered the break with work to do after it, hoping for another second-half comeback against Wellington.
United set about staging that comeback after the interval and Botic came close as he leapt high to meet a Jacob Tratt cross with his head, but the attempt flew wide of the post.
James Troisi stole a march on Wellington’s defence soon after and put the ball in a dangerous area across the six-yard box, but Wellington whisked away his cutback and cleared the danger.
Wellington had threated prior to that with Bozhidar Kraev striking the side netting and Oskar Zawada firing slightly further wide of the mark, but it wasn’t too long until they both found the target.
The goals came within six minutes of each other either side of the hour and the first via a spectacular effort from Kraev who burst into space and bent a lovely curling effort into the top corner.
The Bulgarian was involved again for the third goal as he was felled in the box by Tongo Doumbia, allowing Zawada to bury a penalty into the bottom left corner.
Zawada nearly doubled his tally on the night soon after when he was played through on goal, but Young made another smart save to keep the deficit at three.
United continued to push for some joy in the game and Wales drew an acrobatic stop from Oliver Sail in net for Wellington as the visitors sought to hold onto the clean sheet.
It proved to be a difficult night for United in the end despite the best efforts of the players, with this the side’s third straight defeat.