Trent Sainsbury picked the perfect moment to score his first goal for Central Coast on Wednesday, heading in late to earn the Mariners a 2-1 win over Chinese side Guizhou Renhe that revives his side's Asian Champions League campaign.
The Mariners had looked set for more ACL heartbreak after an unlucky own goal by goalkeeper Matt Ryan equalised Pedj Bojic's spectacular 50th-minute opener at Bluetongue Stadium.
But with just nine minutes left, Michael McGlinchey whipped in a perfect right-wing cross for the charging Sainsbury to head in at the far post.
The 21-year-old fullback's strike secured the Mariners only their second win in three continental campaigns and hoisted them up to four points at the halfway point in Group H, putting them in good shape for next week's return fixture.
"We made it real hard for ourselves," Mariners coach Graham Arnold said. "We should have been up 3-0."
"I’ve been around in international football long enough to know that you can really get hurt badly if you don’t capitalise on your advantage and we didn’t do that," he said.
"Fortunately we got the second goal but when it was 1-1 we had to go for it. We opened up quite a bit.
"Three points was a must tonight. It was either three or bust".
Guizhou coach Gong Lei appeared to be well on the way to busting himself with things going against his side.He fired up early when the referee allowed play to continue despite half the Bluetongue Stadium floodlights failing, was warned for his continued protests and had to be restrained by members of his own bench when the innocuous award of a goal kick went against his side.
"He was more mental than me," Arnold said.
Things could have been a lot more comfortable had referee Abdullah Baloushi awarded the Mariners a penalty for a blatant fifth-minute handball by Guizhou defender Wu Wei, who missed his attempt at a clearing header and swatted the ball out of the area with his arm.
Guizhou threatened sporadically through Zvjezdan Misimovic, who set up fellow Bosnian international Zlatan Muslimovic for an effort that Ryan smartly blocked at his feet, but the Mariners were the better side and merited their opener when it came.
There seemed little danger when Bojic picked up the ball on the right corner of the penalty area, but he cut inside with a touch of his right foot and hit a dipping shot with his left to score at the far post with goalkeeper Zhang Lie nowhere.
That looked to have set the Mariners on their way but they paid for their profligacy in the 71st minute when they conceded in unlucky fashion.
Joshua Rose headed a wicked free kick from Misimovic onto his own post, from where it rebounded, hit goalkeeper Ryan and rolled agonisingly over the line.
The home side were not to be denied, however, and Arnold's 100th match as Mariners coach ended in glory with Sainsbury's intervention.
In A-League news, Perth Glory defender Josh Risdon has re-signed with the club for a further three A-League seasons, but Travis Dodd could be sidelined for up to a year after undergoing a knee reconstruction.
Risdon has played 55 games for the Glory, with his career highlight coming a fortnight ago when he scored the winner in a 3-2 triumph over Melbourne Victory.
The 20-year-old's new contract takes him through to the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
CENTRAL COAST 2 (Pedj Bojic 50, Trent Sainsbury 81) bt GUIZHOU RENHE 1 (Joshua Rose 72 og) at Bluetongue Stadium. Referee: Abdullah Al Bloushi.