A gusty display from goalkeeper Keeley Richards was not enough to hold back Adelaide United as Vicki Linton's outfit fell to a second straight loss.
Canberra United had come back from a goal down, thanks to Paige Satchell's breakaway strike, but the Reds prevailed to claim a close 2-1 win at Marden Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Richard largely kept the visitors in the round-eight contest with six crucial saves, surviving a second-half onslaught as Adelaide tried to extend their advantage in the 65th minute.
The loss means the Reds leapfrog United into third on the W-League ladder, with Canberra now rounding out the top four by a point.
"It's tough after a loss, we're feeling angry, frustrated and all those sorts of things. It doesn't derail our season, we talked about that, but it does need to propel us to be better," Linton said.
"There were lots of good signs that we displayed, Adelaide are a very good team playing on their home pitch.
"They took their chances to be fair and at times we make it a bit easy for teams to do that. That's the disappointing thing.
"It's taken a lot out of our team in general, it was a physically tough game."
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It marked Clare Hunt's first W-League match in more than three years, having had a lengthy hiatus after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament in her first stint with the club.
A wrist injury delayed the 21-year-old defender's return this season, with Hunt finishing with two interceptions and 39 passes in her 48 minute outing.
"She did an excellent job coming in. It's great resilience she has displayed over a number of years to get herself back into this position," Linton said.
"We needed to rest her, she wasn't ready to play the full 90 minutes today. That's going to hold to her in good stead moving forward."
Michelle Heyman came into the match one goal short of levelling Sam Kerr's all-time W-League scoring record, but the rejuvenated striker could not penetrate Adelaide's defence.
She had two early chances go begging, with goalkeeper Annalee Grove denying the veteran on her W-League debut.
The lost chances came back to haunt Canberra in the 11th minute when Adelaide drew first blood via Chelsie Dawber's boot.
The Reds striker sent a volley into the top corner from a drifting Isabel Hodgson cross, putting Canberra on the back foot for the fourth time this season.
The first-half margin could have been greater were it not from some desperate defending by Hunt, with Adelaide's skipper Dylan Holmes calling for a hand ball when the leftback turned into her shot.
Referee Isabella Blaess let play continue, much to Holmes and the crowd's dismay because Canberra levelled the scores only minutes later.
"I saw her turn into it so from my angle I thought it was, but you know the referee is always right so you've just got to take it," Holmes told Fox Sports at half time.
Paige Satchell scored her first W-League goal to draw level at the stroke of half-time, with the Kiwi international flying down the left flank to beat Grove from a narrow angle.
Adelaide took back the lead shortly after the break when Emily Condon smashed the ball home from close range.
Goalkeeper Richards made three saves in as many minutes to keep Canberra in the physical match, but it came to no avail as Adelaide held on for victory.
"That's really a strength of hers, her shot stopping. She came off big in those moments," Linton said.
"She did well. For us what we have to take away from that is there's lots of little things we need to take up a notch. There's no massive things, just little things in a number of areas.
"There was a good response in the second half and unfortunately we couldn't get the goal or two we needed."
Football Australia are yet to announce when United will take the field next, but it is hoped the club will found out on Monday.
Meanwhile Saturday's game between Newcastle and Melbourne City was postponed following the announcement of Victoria's five-day COVID lockdown on Friday.
AT A GLANCE
W-League round eight: ADELAIDE UNITED 2 (Dawber 11' Condon 55') bt CANBERRA UNITED 1 (Satchell 45+1') at Marden Sports Complex