A stoppage-time header from centre-back Patrick Zwaanswijk snatched Central Coast Mariners a 3-2 victory over visiting North Queensland Fury that elevated them to second in the A-League, three points behind Adelaide United.
Graham Arnold’s team were desperate to win their last outing at Bluetongue Stadium in seven weeks - the pitch is set to be resurfaced - but Fury defender Simon Storey silenced the home supporters by breaking the deadlock on 12 minutes.
A half-time team-talk from the former Australia coach appeared to do the trick, though, as Socceroos hopeful Matt Simon equalised within three minutes of the restart. The Mariners went ahead on 57 minutes. Daniel McBreen was hauled down in the area and Patricio Perez, who, alongside Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, formed part of Argentina’s FIFA U-20 World Cup-winning squad of 2005, dispatched the penalty.
Central Coast, with Perez in irresistible form, missed a series of chances to double their lead thereafter, and their poor finishing was punished 12 minutes from time. Mark Hughes delivered the ball into the box and McBreen inadvertently diverted it into his own net to make it 2-2.
The remainder of normal time was awash with chances, and even though Dutch forward Dyron Daal was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute, it was North Queensland that had the better of them. Fortunately for Central Coast, Matthew Ryan - the 18-year-old deputising for long-term injury victim Jess Vanstrattan - made a few brilliant saves, one in particular from the lively Chris Payne.
Two minutes into injury time, when a fourth draw in eight games this season seemed inevitable for the Mariners, they grabbed all three points. Michael McGlinchey made space for himself on the wing and the Kiwi’s pinpoint cross was headed home by the 35-year-old Zwaanswijk.
Arnold, whose side had kept clean sheets in their previous three matches, was delighted with the success. "For once our defence wasn't the best, but our attack was good," he said.
"I'm very proud of the boys, I think it's the best we've played this season. I'm very happy. I thought we played very good football. They pretty much had one shot at goal in the first half."
The Fury are now winless in seven matches and remain second-bottom.