Western United suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat away from home against Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.
Garang Kuol found the breakthrough for Central Coast in the 81st minute after an otherwise tight and tense affair.
Both sides felt the impact of VAR in the second half as it ruled out a Mariners goal at one end and a penalty for United at the other.
The defeat keeps the Green and Black in third place on the Isuzu UTE A-League Men table, one point adrift of Melbourne Victory with a game in hand and an additional point further back of Melbourne City.
Western United came into the match unchanged from the 2-0 win over Macarthur FC 10 days ago, with plenty of time for the players to recover from the busy trip to Tasmania.
Lachie Wales and Connor Pain started on either flank against their former side, while Nikolai Topor-Stanley continued at centre-back as captain.
Western United came bursting out of the blocks with Wales attempting the first shot of the game inside 20 seconds after a positive run from Pain following the kick-off.
Those two were causing their former side problems early doors with their pace and ability on the ball but United couldn’t quite pick the final pass to get in behind the Mariners defence.
United’s ever-present midfielder Steven Lustica gave John Aloisi something to worry about 10 minutes in when he succumbed to calf tightness and was replaced by Dylan Pierias.
After two wins and two clean sheets in the last two outings, United looked in the mood but the defence was still needed to keep out the quality of Central Coast when they got forward.
In-form striker Jason Cummings was always looking to get in behind the defence but it was a long-range shot that brought about the closest thing to a goal at either end, with his left-footed strike thumping into the right-hand post before Jamie Young saved Beni N’Kololo’s effort on the rebound.
The hosts began to work themselves further into the game and kept the pressure on United with a couple of corners and half chances in and around the box.
There was to be no break of the deadlock in the first 45 minutes, though, as both sides applied pressure at different points of the half but ultimately went into the interval with work to do.
Central Coast were stepping things up towards the end of the first half and continued that into the beginning of the second period, pinning United back with direct forward passes and good set piece delivery.
United was able to repel the hosts advances relatively comfortably though, with Leo Lacroix and Topor-Stanley putting in typically strong displays in central defence.
The Mariners were able to convert that pressure into a strike into the back of the net as Moresche thumped the ball beyond Young just past the hour mark, but a VAR review showed that N’Kololo had narrowly failed to keep the ball in play for his would-be assist.
The video assistant was called in again soon after to intervene at the other end as Alek King pointed to the penalty spot when Pain was brought down by Lewis Miller. The review showed that the foul occurred outside of the box and United was instead awarded a free-kick, which was struck wide by Neil Kilkenny.
Cummings forced another save from Young at his near post as the game approached its final 10 minutes with both sides pushing for a winner.
The breakthrough came for the hosts in the 81st minute when they switched the ball from left to right and worked the ball to substitute Kuol whose left-footed curler nestled into the bottom corner of the net.
United tried to get back on the front foot to find an equaliser but Central Coast managed the remainder of the contest to hold onto an important victory, while the Green and Black will look ahead to two big games against Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United to close the season.