The Mariners endured a frustrating night at Coopers Stadium on Friday, as three penalties helped Adelaide United overcome goals from Danny DeSilva and Alou Kuol.
With Gianni Stensness out Jaden Casella was slotted into the starting lineup, and Michal Janota dropped back to play alongside Oliver Bozanic at the base of midfield.
Both teams started slowly but the hosts did have chances, and milestone man Jack Clisby did well to block Ben Halloran’s strike eight minutes in, before an inch perfect cross from him found Matt Simon moments later, only for James Delianov to claim it.
The Mariners found the lead after a quarter of an hour though with great attacking pressure playing dividends. Clisby toed Ollie Bozanic’s pass through into the path of DeSilva and although Jordan Elsey reached it first, his back pass under pressure was woefully under hit, and DeSilva pounced to toe the ball past Delianov and in for the lead.
Adelaide were handed a lifeline 10 minutes before the break though with a penalty, as Stefan Mauk appeared to fall into Ruon Tongyik in the 18-yard box.
Tomi Juric converted calmly and the two sides headed into the break all even.
Alen Stajcic turned to his bench 10 minutes into the second half, bringing on energy with Josh Nisbet and Kuol, and the latter was involved almost straight away as he headed Clisby’s cross straight at Delianov.
He would get his goal though, and just inside the final half hour Kuol calmly collected a pass into the area before beating his defender and rifling a strike off the inside of the post and in to put his side back ahead, and go outright top of the golden boot race.
Minutes later though it was a penalty again for the hosts as Mauk and Nisbet tangled in the box, and Juric once more fired home the spot kick to draw his team level.
The Mariners hassled and harried and continued to push, and just inside the final 10 minutes looked to have a golden chance.
A superb defensive scramble kept the Reds at bay before Kuol broke up field and was fouled on the edge of the area, but a lengthy VAR review brought play back for a handball penalty down the other end, which Juric converted to give Adelaide the lead.
Bozanic nearly caught Delianov out with a header in the dying seconds but the goalkeeper somehow kept it out, and United prevailed to take the three points.
Stajcic and his side now turn their attentions to Perth, who they will face on Tuesday, 2nd March in Perth after the latest batch of A-League fixtures were confirmed this week.