Mariners' 2-1 win deals blow to 'Nix premiership hopes

Central Coast are going full steam ahead towards an A-League Men premiership after a late Mikael Doka goal fired them to a 2-1 victory over Wellington.

Dogged all Saturday night in their top-of-the-table clash, Doka finally found reward for effort by scoring the match-winner a minute into added time to hand Giancarlo Italiano's men an upset loss at Industree Group Stadium.

Returning to the top of the table on 46 points, Central Coast are a chance to come away with the premiership with just three regular-season matches remaining.

The Mariners will need to juggle an AFC Cup game in Kyrgyzstan as they take on competition strugglers Western United, Adelaide and bottom team Newcastle.

Far from the team that started their title defence winless across four games, coach Mark Jackson was elated with the Mariners' Saturday outing.

"It was a really, really strong performance from us. It shows our character, that we can keep pushing line to the end," Jackson said.

"We've got a group of players who never say die, stick together, keep pushing, keep wanting to win games."

Wellington, who were in top spot before Saturday's match, sit second, also on 46 points.

"I don’t think we’ve conceded a goal like that all year, especially top of the box," Italiano said.

"We usually defend that very, very well, so I was really disappointed with that.

"We'll see what happens after three games. The Mariners still have to win those three games.

"They have to travel halfway across the world, so there's still a lot to play for."

Falling short of scoring the first goal himself after hitting the crossbar, Doka was the architect of Angel Torres' opener after threading the ball to Storm Roux in the box.

Birthday boy Torres, receiving the ball from a quality cutback from Roux, bested four 'Nix defenders and formidable goalkeeper Alex Paulsen to score his 13th goal of the season in the 61st minute.

Torres' celebrations were short-lived, with Ben Old peeling one back in the 78th minute for the visitors after a classy pass from Oskar van Hattum, who was running untagged down the wing.

The Mariners should have been ahead before the main break after taking 13 shots to four in the opening 45 minutes.

Joshua Nisbet, playing his 100th match, came close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute after intercepting a cheap pass from Wellington's Lukas Kelly-Heald.

The newly minted Socceroo bolted towards goal with a one-two pass from Alou Kuol, but was unable to conquer Paulsen's left foot.

With tensions high, Jackson was shown the yellow card a minute later after disagreeing with referee Alex King's decision to award a free kick to the visitors when Kelly-Heald went to ground after colliding with Kuol.

Kuol had dragged Kelly-Heald down after the Wellington defender shouldered him as he ran towards home, with Jackson arguing his attacker had a genuine goal-scoring opportunity.

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