Central Coast have taken a huge step towards securing their first A-League finals appearance in seven years after a 2-1 away win over Macarthur.
Trailing early at Campbelltown Stadium, the Mariners showed the never-say-die attitude that has been a trademark of their play this season and deservedly hit the front shortly after halftime.
Macarthur showed more urgency in the final half hour but couldn’t manufacture enough chances.
The Mariners third win from as many games against the Bulls lifted them two places to third to move above Brisbane and Adelaide, while Macarthur remained sixth, two points ahead of Wellington.
Macarthur looked the more threatening side early on and opened the scoring after 17 minutes.
Midfielder Denis Genreau, who was this week named in the Socceroos squad for next month’s World Cup qualifiers in Kuwait, put Markel Susaeta through and the Spaniard deftly lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Mark Birighitti, who was well off his line.
The Mariners came to life the final 15 minutes of the half with Marco Urena and Jack Clisby prominent
A fine turn and pass from Urena found Matt Simon and his rolled pass fell invitingly to Clisby, who drilled a shot into the far corner of the net in the 31st minute,
Lively Clisby also blasted over after being put through by Urena and then had a goal overturned by VAR for offside.
The Mariners almost scored again in first-half stoppage time when Bulls goalkeeper Adam Federici pulled off a fine save with his legs to deny Simon.
The visitors carried that momentum into the second half and took the lead in the 55th minute.
Urena ran across the edge of the area and rolled the ball to Daniel De Silva, who placed his shot perfectly.
Federici kept Macarthur in the game with two more critical saves within three minutes of the Mariners second goal.
He produced a superb diving save to push away an Oliver Bozanic piledriver and used his legs to keep out a shot from Urena, after the Costa Rican had been played into space.
Macarthur finally responded with Birighitti making a fine point-blank save to keep out a Matt Derbyshire header from a corner just after the hour but for all their late pressure the Bulls couldn’t score again.