A DANIEL McBREEN brace sent the high-flying Western Sydney Wanderers crashing down to earth as Central Coast Mariners extended their lead at the summit of the league with a composed 2-0 win.
The competition's two most organised teams clashed at Parramatta Stadium but the Wanderers lost their nerve and had a player sent off against the more-disciplined Mariners.
''The test today was more about the challenge of again trying to silence a crowd - trying to take the crowd out of the game and try to beat the form team in the competition - and I thought our performance was very good,'' said Mariners coach Graham Arnold.
After a fiery opening, the Wanderers began to find their rhythm after the quarter-hour mark and as their confidence grew, so did their aggression. Right-back Jerome Polenz became the first player to enter the book after 17 minutes following a hard lunge from behind on Mile Sterjovski.
The Wanderers were incensed with referee Chris Beath when Joey Gibbs was slammed into the turf by Trent Sainsbury when through on goal in the 26th minute. Gibbs was hauled down by the last defender, Sainsbury, but Beath brandished a yellow card when perhaps a red was due.
A flash of brilliance by Shinji Ono created a chance for the Wanderers to break the deadlock after 35 minutes. The Japanese star sliced a clever half volley cross that caught the Mariners defence napping in the box. His powerful pass narrowly evaded the outstretched Gibbs only metres out from goal.
As the Wanderers began to tighten their grip on the match, the Mariners' Mike McGlinchey broke away from Shannon Cole on the right flank to burst through on goal but the Kiwi international skewed his shot wide from inside the box.
Just as the Wanderers resumed their dominance, McBreen scored his 12th goal of the season. The striker danced his way through Polenz and Nikolai Topor-Stanley then slotted the ball into the far corner.
Only the outstretched right leg of Pedj Bojic denied the Wanderers an equaliser immediately after the break. Polenz burst down the right flank to find an unmarked Ono deep inside the box. The Wanderers marquee struck a low drive that beat keeper Mat Ryan in goals, but was cleared off the line by Bojic.
The hosts' chances of a comeback suffered a blow in the 55th minute when Jason Trifiro was dismissed for a high challenge on Nick Montgomery.
They might have been a man down, but the Wanderers pegged the league leaders against the ropes in the dying minutes of the game and thought their efforts were rewarded with a penalty when Mark Bridge went down in the box. Beath waved play on, much to the dismay of the crowd of 16,387.
The hosts became desperate in their search for an equaliser but any chance of snaring a late draw was dashed by a defensive blunder. An aimless back pass by Reece Caira played McBreen onside and the striker doubled his tally with a cool chip into the back of the net.
Western Sydney's head coach, Tony Popovic, slammed the performance of Beath.
''In general, his performance was terrible,'' he said. ''Not to talk about the two yellows - they might have warranted a yellow on each occasion - but overall he was very poor. I thought he was through on goal, he's interpreted it different.''
■ Ten-man Melbourne Heart staved off a comeback from Brisbane Roar to win 3-2 at AAMI Park on Sunday and leap into the top six. It is the first time the Heart have posted back-to-back wins in an inconsistent season and allowed them to leapfrog the Roar into the top six.