Melbourne City's three-year reign as the dominant force in the W-League is all but over despite a one-sided 2-0 win over Sydney FC in Wollongong on Thursday.
Second-half goals from Yukari Kinga and Tameka Butt were enough for the three points, but left City short of the goal avalanche needed to make a last-round jump into the top-four.
City, who have been crowned champions in each of the three seasons since they entered the competition in 2015, must now rely on free-scoring Perth Glory to lose by five goals or more against Melbourne Victory on Friday evening.
Defeat for third-placed Sydney FC is a major blow with last season's runners-up needing at least a draw if they were to have any hope of earning a home semi-final.
City had lost five of their 11 matches this season but the contest between the 2018 grand finalists proved surprisingly one-sided.
The all-star City dominated first-half possession and had racked up an incredible 17 shots on goal to the Sky Blues' one.
But they had nothing to show for their efforts as Kinga narrowly fired a spot-kick wide of the post after benefiting from a questionable penalty decision.
The theme continued after the interval before Kinga fired home from close range midway through the second half.
Despite the domination City goalkeeper Lydia Williams was forced to pull out a world class save from a Sofia Huerta shot to maintain the lead.
Theresa Nielsen set up Butt as City finally broke through for their second four minutes from full-time but it's not expected to be enough.