THE Newcastle Jets slipped deeper into the mire on Thursday night with a 3-1 loss to A-League leaders Melbourne City at AAMI Park.
The result left the Jets last on the ladder, a point behind Melbourne Victory, who now have two games in hand.
Newcastle are now winless in their past 11 starts and have six games left to avoid the wooden spoon and salvage some credibility from their season.
City, in contrast, went into Thursday night's clash full of confidence after eight wins and two draws from their previous 11 games.
A point clear of Sydney FC and Central Coast before last night's victory, City now have a four-point break in the race for the Premiers' Plate, and have played one game fewer than their nearest rivals.
Former Newcastle crowd favourite Andrew Nabbout put the boot into his old club by claiming City's opening goal.
Nabbout broke clear down the left flank in the 32nd minute and fired through a waist-high ball across the face of goal.
Jets defender Johnny Koutroumbis instinctively hung out a leg behind himself, and the ball deflected wickedly into Newcastle's goal, leaving keeper Lewis Italiano with no chance.
City doubled their lead in the 59th minute when skipper Scott Jamieson strolled past through some flimsy defence and produced a curling shot that beat Italiano's despairing dive.
It was only the left back's third goal in a 268-game A-League career.
It was 3-0 in the 70th minute when Nabbout got in behind Newcastle's defence and centred the ball for Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren, who volleyed from close range to score the 99th game of his A-League career.
Newcastle midfielder Steven Ugarkovic scored a consolation goal in the 86th minute with a nice finish after a Matt Millar breakaway.
The Jets went into the match without senior striker Roy O'Donovan, who was serving a one-match ban after accumulating five yellow cards. O'Donovan and skipper Nigel Boogaard would appear likely inclusions for Newcastle's next assignment, at home to champions Sydney FC on Saturday week.