The Newcastle Jets squandered an early lead and their chances in a damaging 2-1 loss to Western Sydney at Carrington Park in Bathurst on Friday night.
The two sides were locked on 20 points, one outside the top six, heading into the A-League Women's round-16 showdown.
But by full-time, Wanderers, who have a game in hand over Newcastle, had risen to 23 points and fourth position while the Jets remained in eighth.
Newcastle could drop further by the end of the weekend when the rest of the round is completed.
The Jets made a flying start to the exchange with Libby Copus-Brown firing a shot into the bottom left corner of Wanderers net from the top of their 18-yard box in the 14th minute after a clever ball back from Sarina Bolden.
The visitors played a high-tempo and suffocating style of football in a mostly dominant first half but went into the sheds at the break locked 1-1 after Sophie Harding equalised from a goal kick two minutes before half-time.
Harding slipped in behind Zoe Karipidis and Tash Prior to pick up the ball in space before finishing with a neat chip into the top right corner.
The Jets had outshot Wanderers 11 to 3 in the first half but could not find the polish to net another goal.
The trend continued in the second half with plenty of chances created but more composure needed.
Copus-Brown was unable to capitalise on a poor pass out by Kaylie Collins in the 52nd minute and instead lobbed a shot straight back to the Western Sydney shot-stopper, who was well off her line.
The killer blow came in the 79th minute from a careless Alex Huynh foul just outside the Jets' penalty area.
A diving Izzy Nino did well to push away Amy Harrison's low shot with the ensuing free kick but could not deny an unmarked Vicky Bruce with the rebound.
A chance to equalise went begging when Bolden put a shot over the bar in the 86th minute then Nino pulled off a sensational stop at point-blank range to deny Maliah Morris in stoppage time.
In the end, the statistics told the story with Newcastle producing 18 shots compared to Wanderers' eight.
The Jets will be desperate for points when they return home to host Brisbane at Maitland Sportsground on February 17.
There was only one change to the Jets starting side from their 3-2 win over Wellington in round 15 with experienced centre-back Tash Prior returning in place of Josie Wilson.
Prior played from the bench against Phoenix after being struck by COVID ahead of the match.
Defender Claudia Cicco sat out the Wellington clash altogether due to COVID but came onto the bench for the game in Bathurst and played the second half.