Jamie Maclaren netted his first goal in four games but it wasn’t enough as Melbourne City settled for a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night.
Despite dominating the chances, the second-placed City were forced to fight-back from a goal down on their AAMI Park home patch to share the spoils with the Wanderers - and missing the chance to close the gap on league-leaders Sydney FC, who also drew earlier in the day.
Tate Russell netted his maiden Hyundai A-League goal midway through the first half to put the Wanderers on the front foot, but went from hero-to-villain as he fouled Craig Noone in the box shortly after to allow Maclaren to level from the penalty spot.
However, it was defender Curtis Good that ultimately proved the hero for City as they notched their third straight match without defeat due to a stunning second-half goal line clearance to deny the Wanderers' Simon Cox a near-certain goal.
The result also keeps the Wanderers on the fringes of the finals football positions – two points shy of sixth-placed Western United.
Wales lets Wanderers off the hook early
Elevated to the starting line-up, Lachie Wales came close to repaying the faith of Erick Mombaerts when he threatened with the first clear cut chance of the contest on 11 minutes.
Picked out by a well-placed cross from Craig Noone, the City attacker sought to head back across goal into the bottom corner but saw his effort flash beyond the post.
Wanderers make it count with classy opener through Russell
By contrast, the Wanderers made no mistake with their first clear scoring opportunity of the contest in the 22nd minute.
After increasingly asserting themselves in possession, the visitors broke through on the back of a fluid series of passes as Mitchell Duke's cross-field ball to Russell was touched on for Nicolai Muller.
The German then squared it back up for Russell to tuck away with a composed finish for his first ever Hyundai A-League goal.
Maclaren squares it up from the penalty spot
The Wanderers hard work was brought undone prior to the half-hour as Socceroo Jamie Maclaren levelled terms with a spot kick.
An initial strike from Nathaniel Atkinson was parried away by Daniel Lopar and was latched on to by Craig Noone, who was then clipped as he bore down on goal by Tate Russell.
Despite not scoring in his past three outings, Maclaren made no mistake with the ensuing spot kick for is his 20th in City colours.
Noone threatens but sides remain level at the half
Buoyed by their leveller, City looked the team most likely in the final quarter hour of the opening stanza - but could not add to their haul before the break.
Craig Noone proved an increasing threat for the Wanderers defenders as he shot over the target from distance on 34 minutes and saw a cross flash across the face of goal after just eluding the looming Florian Berenguer shortly after.
The Englishman did find the target with a drive before half-time but it was too close to Daniel Lopar and easily claimed.
Good makes the greatest of goal line clearances
City's threat continued early in the second half but suffered for poor delivery in the final third, and the Wanderers nearly stole a march on their opponents after the hour.
After winning the battle to a long ball with Curtis Good, Simon Cox saw his resulting shot take a touch off the onrushing Tom Glover but the ball looked destined the cross the line.
The English attacker looked to usher it over the line but the recovering Good swooped in on the slide to stunningly clear it away with the assistance of fellow defender Harrison Delbridge.
Late chances spurned by both sides
Both teams had their opportunities to walk away with three points but ultimately it was not to be.
City's Josh Brillante fired over the bar with a firm strike from distance approaching the final quarter hour before Mitchell Duke forced a save from Glover with a headed effort soon after for the Wanderers.
Craig Noone also saw an opportunity from a corner in the 82nd minute but could not find the target with his headed finish.
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne City
Friday, 20 March
Central Coast Stadium
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT
Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC
Saturday, 21 March
Kick-off: 7.30pm AEDT