Central Coast Mariners 1 Melbourne Victory 3
Marcel Seip of the Victory breaks away from Matthew Simon of the Mariners. Photo: Getty Images
A lethal three-goal response in the space of 15 minutes breathed life back into Melbourne Victory's season against a shell-shocked Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday night.
The big story had been the return to Gosford of brilliant attacking midfielder and former Mariner Tom Rogic, playing for Victory after being loaned back to the A-League by Scottish giants Celtic.
But the show was stolen by a player who coach Kevin Muscat had dropped to the bench amid the Victory's recent horror run in which they gained one point in three matches and conceded 11 goals.
On the scoresheet: Archie Thompson. Photo: Getty Images
James Troisi's first goal came in first-half injury time, pouncing on the leftovers from a Gui Finkler free kick which goalkeeper Liam Reddy could only parry onto the crossbar. It negated Bernie Ibini's opener for the Mariners and was no less than the Victory deserved after a gutsy first 45 minutes.
They returned for the next period with similar purpose, grabbing the lead four minutes later when Archie Thompson scored a trademark goal, tapping in at the near post from Adama Traore's low, hard cross.
Troisi must have gone a long way to regaining his coach's trust when he scored his second in the 62nd minute, beating Reddy at the near post after getting the final pass from Rogic.
It was a crucial win for Melbourne, psychologically as much as practically, their first in Gosford in five attempts and their first in nearly a month.
In the first half, both teams conjured opportunities out of enterprising transition football.
The Mariners went ahead on 11 minutes when Josh Rose's shot from one such venture was mishandled by goalkeeper Nathan Coe, gifting Ibini a first-time tap in, albeit from an acute angle, his first goal since rejoining the Mariners after a difficult spell in China.
They might already have gone ahead after Zach Anderson's header from a corner in the third minute forced Scott Galloway to clear off Victory's goal line.
Coe restored some credibility when saving a one-on-one with Ibini on 20 minutes, but he was nearly left stranded when Eddy Bosnar - in his first match in Australia in 14 years - unleashed from a set-piece from 35 metres on the half hour.
Instead, Victory got their reward when Finkler's curling 25-metre free kick came back to Troisi to tap in.
They picked up where they left off in the second half, snaring the lead in the 49th minute.
The crowd of 9138 was silenced when Troare flew past a committed Storm Roux on the left wing and crossed for Thompson to bury it first time at the near post.
Drama followed almost immediately when Pablo Contreras brought down Mile Sterjovski. According to the Mariners, it was inside the area. According to referee Matthew Gillett, it was outside. Bosnar's resulting free kick was well saved. The Mariners kept pressing, but fell further behind when Troisi snuck one past Reddy at the near post.
Muscat brought on Mark Milligan in the 71st minute, completing a remarkably quick return from a right-knee injury for the Socceroo centre-back, and gave Rogic a rest in the 80th minute as the Victory settled in for the final assault.