Canberra junior Tomas Rogic was sent off as a resurgent Sydney FC stunned A-League leaders Central Coast 1-0 at Allianz Stadium on Thursday night.
Brett Emerton's 89th-minute winner secured the three points to lift the Sky Blues off the bottom of the ladder into ninth place.
Rogic's frustration boiled over just before full-time and he received a red card from referee Peter Green after a forceful challenge on Sydney youngster Rhyan Grant, causing an all-in scuffle.
The Sky Blues looked miles apart from the side thumped 7-2 by the Mariners in their last encounter in what was an end-to-end clash.
Despite that result, Sydney FC coach Frank Farina said his troops held no fears going into the clash against the league leaders.
''Of course we believed we could win that game,'' Farina said.
''You've got to believe that, otherwise there's no point turning up. It was pleasing to get the result but even more so the work ethic and the fighting they showed out there tonight.''
Central Coast coach Graham Arnold was full of praise for the much-improved Sydney side.
''It wasn't one of our better displays,'' he said.
''But give credit to Sydney, I thought they played very well tonight. It was probably the best they've played all year. So we have to get used to the fact that we're sitting at the top of the table and teams will lift against us.
''You saw tonight they were prepared for the fight and I think they were still hurting from the 7-2 loss and they wanted some revenge and they got it.''
Sydney showed a sense of urgency from the get go with Yairo Yau creating a chance for stand-in skipper Emerton a minute in.
But the Mariners' attack soon began to create headaches for Sydney, easily getting past the Sky Blues' defence with both the league's leading goal scorer Daniel McBreen and Joshua Rose forcing saves from gloveman Vedran Janjetovic.
Alessandro Del Piero showed his impressive skills to win the ball and go on a defence-busting run with young Socceroos keeper Matt Ryan saving his ensuing shot.
The Juventus legend looked like putting the hosts in front just before the break, causing a goalmouth scramble from a curling shot, with Trent Sainsbury doing well to clear the ball off the line.
The Sky Blues continued peppering the Mariners goal with shots in the second half with both Adam Griffiths and Blake Powell getting the 16,887-strong crowd on their feet with dangerous strikes.
The match was briefly interrupted in the 63rd minute when a streaker took to the field.
McBreen had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 74th minute when he found himself one-on-one with the the keeper but Janjetovic saved the strike from point-blank range.
Rogic could have stolen a win in the dying minutes when late substitute Mitchell Duke supplied him with a perfect cross into the box but the Mariners playmaker sent his shot over the crossbar.
Grant replied with a shot of his own a moment later but was denied by the woodwork.
Sky Blues winger Ali Abbas then played a perfect ball to Emerton with the Socceroo heading home the winner.
Frustration boiled over for the Mariners side with John Hutchinson being sent-off in extra-time after earning his second yellow card, leaving the visitors with just nine men at full-time following Rogic's dismissal.
SYDNEY FC 1 (Brett Emerton 89m) bt CENTRAL COAST MARINERS 0 at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 16,887. Referee: Peter Green.
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