Western United fell to a 4-1 defeat against Wellington Phoenix at Morshead Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was a damaging first-half for the Green and Black as the side fell 3-0 behind courtesy of goals from Scott Wootton, Jaushua Sotirio and Walter Sandoval.
United looked to get back into the early in the second half through Steven Lustica, but Sotirio added a second soon after to allow Wellington to see out the game and earn a big win.
After being a late omission last week, Rene Krhin returned to the starting XI in midfield alongside Neil Kilkenny.
The Slovenian returned to the line-up in place of Dylan Pierias who missed out due to a minor ankle problem in the only change to the Western United team.
Western United started the game on the front foot, looking to get the ball under control and dictate possession in the forward half.
Connor Pain and Ben Garuccio saw a lot of the ball down the left-hand side but couldn’t quite pick the final ball, as Lachie Wales and Aleksandar Prijovic both went close to opening the scoring.
But Wellington struck twice in quick succession just before the half hour mark, eradicating United’s early impetus and seizing control of the contest.
The first came from a corner as Wootton ghosted in unmarked at the back post to tap into an empty net after the ball had been flicked on into his path.
Just three minutes separated the goals, the second coming via Sotirio who finished off a counter-attack as Walter Sandoval ran nearly the length of the pitch to set him up.
That quickfire double seemed to knock the wind out of the Green and Black but Krhin came close to pulling one back straight away, forcing a strong low save from Oliver Sail.
Wellington proceeded to carry the momentum for much of the remainder of the first period and added a third before half-time. The referee gave the Phoenix a penalty and Sandoval converted, tucking it into the bottom left corner.
Western United needed a swift response in the second half and Lustica delivered in the 54th minute, capping off a lovely move to score his fifth goal of the season.
Prijovic and second-half substitute Dylan Wenzel-Halls linked together with some swift passing before teeing up Lustica to drive a shot from the edge of the area into the bottom left corner.
United needed that goal to spark a bit of momentum but it only served to motivate the visitors further, and after a couple of chances they regained the three-goal advantage.
Sotirio had time in the box to turn and fire a shot past Jamie Young and score his second goal of the match, striking just after the hour mark.
From there the visitors could limit any chances United was able to create as the Green and Black succumbed to defeat at Morshead Park, but remains well place for a strong finish on the table.