Central Coast kept alive their hopes of pinching the A-League's premier's plate with a commanding 2-0 away triumph against Adelaide United on Sunday night.
Daniel McBreen netted in the fourth minute and Mile Sterjovski scored two minutes from time at Hindmarsh Stadium as the second-placed Mariners closed the gap on table-toppers Western Sydney.
Central Coast (51 points, plus-25 goal difference) will steal the plate with a win next week - if the Wanderers (54 points, plus-17 goal difference) lose to Newcastle.
McBreen's early strike stunned Adelaide, who remain fourth, one point shy of third-placed Melbourne Victory.
McBreen firmed as favourite to win the Golden Boot with his 15th goal this season, two more than Victory star Marco Rojas, after combining with Mitchell Duke to slice open Adelaide's defence.
The duo's neat one-two played McBreen into space and an angled run at goal from five metres out.
As Adelaide goalkeeper Paul Izzo charged, McBreen slotted a low shot to silence Adelaide's 8069-strong home crowd.
The early blow set a dominant tone for the well-drilled Mariners, who repeatedly forced the Reds backwards and sideways.
But Adelaide rallied in the second half with Jeronimo Neumann and Iain Ramsay both narrowly missing equalisers.
Neumann dribbled a sliding right footer from less than a metre out into 'keeper Justin Pasfield, who tipped it centimetres wide, before an audacious 15-metre volley from Ramsay five minutes later cracked into the cross bar.
But the Reds were made to rue their missed chances when Sterjovski blasted a goal from near the penalty spot in the final minutes as the Mariners extended their winning streak against Adelaide to eight matches.
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold hailed the win, given it came with a back-drop of his players and staff not being paid on time by the club.
"It has been an extremely tough week," Arnold said.
He then took a swipe at critics for failing to respect the achievements of the Mariners, who have banked more than 50 points in the past three seasons.
"You get disappointed at times when we don't get the recognition we deserve as a team," he said.
"It motivates the players and it motivates me enormously because I'm a fighter and I like being put down because I like to fight back."
Adelaide United coach Michael Valkanis said despite the Reds' recent lean trot it wasn't "all doom and gloom".
"We huffed and we puffed but didn't blow Central Coast down," Valkanis said.
"We lost and we're disappointed but we didn't deserve to lost 2-0."