Former Central Coast stalwart Matt Simon has come back to haunt his old A-League club, scoring a late brace for Sydney FC and relegating a 10-man Mariners to a dramatic 3-1 loss.
Simon, told after nine years' service in Gosford he was no longer needed this season, showed exactly why he remained the Mariners' leading goalscorer in a tense affair on Saturday at Central Coast Stadium.
The 29-year-old built and built after coach Graham Arnold brought him on at the hour mark to boos from the 10,030-strong crowd of Mariners faithful.
And he struck in the 82nd minute, settling with a solid first touch off a Filip Holosko header before burying his strike past Paul Izzo in the back-right corner.
It would have been the winner after first-half goals to Shane Smeltz and Roy O'Donovan.
But not content with one celebration, Simon blasted in a second six minutes later from a Mickael Tavares cross.
The victory ensures Sydney extend their undefeated away record to 17 games and leapfrog Newcastle back to the top of the table, while lowly Central Coast remain third last.
The match started tightly, broken up only by a wild miss from O'Donovan and Holosko's overcooked shot.
But the cagey affair exploded into life in the final 10 minutes of the first half, as each side scored a goal within two minutes.
Smeltz opened Sydney's account in the 34th minute after an impressive build-up.
Holosko found Alex Brosque with a cheeky backheel through two defenders, allowing the Sky Blues' captain to square to Smeltz for a direct first-time finish.
Not to be discouraged, O'Donovan equalised for the hosts in the very next minute, capitalising on Fabio Ferreira's sensational cutback to the Irishman who was waiting front and centre.
The tension only heightened when Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic cut down O'Donovan in the box, only to go unpunished despite heated calls for a red card.
To the frustration of the Central Coast faithful, Nick Fitzgerald was the one sent off just before halftime, picking up a second yellow for a clumsy challenge on Milos Dimitrijevic following his first yellow only two minutes earlier.
Mickael Tavares relieved Dimitrijevic after the break while Mitch Austin, brought on for Liam Rose, had immediate impact with a perfectly timed tackle on Holosko, who hit the deck clutching his ankle to no avail.
Austin soon found himself one-on-one with Janjetovic after running full tilt downfield but weak on the finish.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Mariners refused to retreat into their shell, pushing forward in attack as they have done all season - although they tired, allowing for for Simon's late heroics.