Melbourne Victory's top-two hopes have received a boost with Georg Niedermeier scoring his first A-League goal in a 2-1 win over Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park.
Ola Toivonen's 12th goal of the season gave Victory a deserved 1-0 lead at halftime, but the upstart Mariners drew level when Matt Simon converted from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.
Niedermeier saved the home side's blushes when he bundled home a Kosta Barbarouses cross from close range in the 79th minute.
The result means Melbourne are just two points behind second-placed Sydney FC, and have consigned Central Coast to finish bottom of the ladder.
It also stretched the longest unbeaten run in the A-League to 18 matches, with Sunday's clash in front of 16,158 fans taking place six years to the day since the Mariners last defeated Victory.
Having suffered a 4-0 thumping to Guangzhou Evergrande in the Asian Champions League on the back of a 2-1 Big Blue loss to Sydney FC, Muscat's men sought to take out their frustrations on the lowly Mariners early.
Victory opened in positive fashion, creating several chances, with Japanese star Keisuke Honda in the thick of the action.
The marquee man forced a strong save from Ben Kennedy in the 12th minute with a long-range shot, with James Troisi putting the rebound over the bar.
He then put a superb cross from Barbarouses into the side netting five minutes later, but Toivonen gave the home side the lead in the 21st minute.
The Swede left Kennedy floundering when he got the ball back from Elvis Kamsoba inside the box to finish a well-crafted move started by Barbarouses.
But Victory were left to rue missed opportunities when Thomas Deng was adjudged to have brought down Simon inside the penalty area.
Victory renewed their efforts but somehow the worst defence in the league, having conceded 62 goals, frustrated their attempts to restore their lead.
Kamsoba found the side netting after another beautifully-crafted forward thrust, but his night ended soon after when he limped off in the 63rd minute.
Stand-in skipper Leigh Broxham's shot fizzed past the post before Barbarouses finally helped break the deadlock in the 79th minute, his dangerous ball well met by Niedemeier.