Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat conceded his team "didn't come to grips" with Melbourne City's full-backs in the derby but couldn't believe the champions failed to equalise in the second half.
City's opening goal came via a rampaging run from Ben Garuccio, who teed up Stefan Mauk for a diving header, while Ivan Franjic also gave Victory a torrid time before half-time.
But Victory dominated the second half and if not for a stunning performance from City goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen, almost certainly would have claimed at least a draw instead of losing 2-1 - an unprecedented fourth consecutive defeat for the Big V.
"When you consider their best player was their goalkeeper it really tells you something," Muscat said at his post-match media conference.
"I'm just happy that we got our edge back in terms of playing without fear and playing on the edge and wanting to take risks, because we're a good team to watch.
"More times than not, that performance would end up with some sort of return for points but it wasn't to be."
When asked about the disparity between Victory's first half and second half, Muscat said: "We didn't come to grips with their full-backs getting forward and wingers tucking inside, and in the second half when we come to grips with that... we kept them in their half for very, very long periods.
"But how the ball didn't go in..."
Victory ended the match with 23 shots, including 13 on target, while Sorensen made 11 saves including at least three to deny Besart Berisha.
The title-holders had looked on track to reel in City after the break - with Berisha having struck on the cusp of half-time - but they couldn't find a way past Sorensen.
Muscat labelled his team's second-half performance "exceptional".
"I'm just so disappointed for the group because third game in eight days, you know, we didn't look like the team that travelled across to Perth [on Wednesday]," he said.