Wellington Phoenix will have to wait at least another week to clinch their spot in the A-League playoffs, after bowing 3-1 on the road to Adelaide United.
With three rounds remaining in the regular season, the side from the capital could have sealed their first post-season appearance since 2015 with victory in South Australia. They sat eight points clear of seventh-placed Newcastle and a win would have put them safely in the top-six finish.
But the Phoenix responded with their worst loss since their 3-0 lapse to leaders Perth Glory two months ago.
- Rudan backs in-form Phoenix to continue winning run
- Fenton's A-League season over
- Rudan praises Phoenix attacking power
Michael Marrone put the home side ahead after just 10 minutes, before Apostolos Stamatelopoulos added a brace in the 17th and 44th minutes for a three-goal advantage.
But immediately after the resumption, Stamatelopoulos lost his chance at a hat-trick, when he felled Spaniard Mandi with a clumsy tackle and was red-carded from the field.
Now facing short-manned over the final 45 minutes, the Phoenix laid siege on the Adelaide goal, hoping for a dramatic comeback. Their rivals shut up shop, packing the defence and frustrating Wellington's scoring efforts.
Seeking his first A-League goal, Irishman Cillian Sheridan squandered a golden opportunity, when he beat the keeper, but turned down an open net and allowed the defence to scramble the ball clear.
But he eventually did open his account, pouncing on a shot from Mandi that rebounded off the right upright and landed at Sheridan's feet with no-one at home.
The Phoenix seemed to have pulled another goal back with 10 minutes left in regulation, when Pole Michal Kopczynski found the net, after a cross and a goalmouth scramble, but the linesman ruled Roy Krishna was offside.
Wellington have their next chance to clinch a playoff appearance, when they visit Brisbane Roar on Friday, but can also progress with a Newcastle loss to Perth next Sunday.