THE Newcastle Jets had a contentious penalty go against them as they fell 1-0 to the Central Coast Mariners in a gritty F3 derby at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
A Matt Simon spot kick in the 54th minute was the difference in a dour encounter that had plenty of spirit but not much silk.
A typical derby in which neither side gave an inch was turned on its head 10 minutes into the second half.
From a throw-in, Angus Thurgate cut across in front of Mariners midfielder Daniel Bouman on the edge of the box. Thurgate's shoulder brushed the midfielder, who collapsed to the ground. Referee Jonathan Barreiro pointed instantly to the spot much to the shock of the Jets players and almost everyone at the ground.
At most, the contact was minimal and Bouman had not touched the ball let alone have it under his control.
The VAR intervened and took an eternity before ruling the penalty would stand.
Simon made no mistake from the spot, lashing a low shot into the left corner for his 10th derby goal.
Asked what he thought of the penalty, Jets coach Craig Deans said: "I think he has made a wrong decision but that is his decision so it is going to stick.
"There is going to be a lot of penalties if the consistency is there in games this week and next week and all the way through.
"Gus is disappointed. He said he couldn't believe it was a penalty. You can't change it. It was the decision made at the time. You have to live with it. I thought he had a good game Gus."
For the second game in a row, replacement Valentino Yuel had a chance to snatch something late.
Released by Ramy Najjarine, Yuel was in open space and had keeper Mark Birighitti rushing off his line, but the striker's touch was heavy and the ball skipped over the by-line.
The Jets threw everything at the Mariners at the death but lacked the magic in the front third to conjure a result.
"I don't think we deserved to lose," Deans said. "It was a similar story to quite a few games. We had enough of the ball in some good areas and enough momentum in the game to score, but at crucial moment in the front third, we didn't get the execution right. It has costs us."
The win was the Mariners' first in seven games and moved them into second spot on 35 points.
The Jets remain nailed to the bottom of the ladder and how now gone 13 games since their last win.
Thurgate, despite the penalty, was outstanding. Nikolai Topor-Stanley also returned to his best.
In a blow for the Jets, recent arrival Jordan O'Doherty was a late withdrawal due to a stomach bug. Ali Abbas came into a reshuffled midfield for his 150th A-League appearance.
Mariners coach Alen Stajcic made one change from the nil-all draw with Brisbane on Wednesday night. Import Marco Urena came started up front for Alou Kuol after Costa Rican had his suspension reduced by a week on appeal.
The Jets had an opportunity to take a make the perfect start when Kye Rowles misjudged a header. Jason Hoffman won the race to the ball. His firm shot struck Mark Birighitti in the face and rebounded to the edge of the box. Thurgate was again first there but Ruon Tonyik showed great hustle and desperation to block the shot.
From the ensuing corner, Nigel Boogaard had a header flash over the crossbar.
It was the best chance for either side in a dour first half.
Roy O'Donovan had a volley fly past the left post as the Jets took the ascendancy early.
The home side pinned the Mariners in their own half for large periods but were unable to convert pressure into clear cut chances.
As you would expect from a derby, there was a bit of spice and Gianni Stensness went into the book of Barreiro after crude challenge of Jason Hoffman just before half-time.
The Mariners lifted after the break and took the lead through the penalty.
Craig Deans introduced Najjarine and Yuel with half an hour to go and nearly had instant reward.
Najjarine found O;Donovan on the corner of the box but the Irishman's first-time shot was tipped over the bar by Birighitti.
Nigel Boogaard limped off two minutes later after copping a knock to his left leg.