SUBSTITUTE Bernie Ibini ensured an understrength Central Coast entered the new year on top of the A-League ladder with the decisive goal in the Mariners' 1-0 home win over Perth at Bluetongue Stadium on New Year's Eve.
Ibini's 67th-minute goal was the first shot on target of a match dominated by two well-drilled defences.
It was the Mariners' sixth win from as many home games this season.
Without the suspended trio of playmaker Tomas Rogic, leading goal-scorer Daniel McBreen and captain John Hutchinson, Central Coast struggled to penetrate the Glory defence.
Perth were a man down from the 76th minute when Dutch central defender Bas Van den Brink was sent off after a second yellow card.
Glory created the only decent chance of the first half, but it was spurned from six metres out by normally deadly striker Shane Smeltz.
At the other end, former Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic pushed away a couple of dangerous crosses, but the home team struggled to create a genuine shot on goal in the first half.
The Mariners upped the tempo in the second half and looked the more likely to score.
The breakthrough came when 53rd-minute substitute Ibini won a challenge with Scott Jamieson to an Oliver Bozanic cross.
The 20-year-old striker shot past Vukovic for his third goal of the season.
Glory's hopes plummeted after Van den Brink, who had earlier been booked for a foul on Michael McGlinchey, was given his second card for a challenge on Mile Sterjovski.
Perth didn't have an attempt on target in the whole game, while the Mariners had just two.
Perth coach Ian Ferguson felt Ibini's goal should not have stood.
"I felt he was all over Jamieson and also he has used his hand to get the ball around to him and score the goal," he said.
"We've lost three points there."
Mariners coach Graham Arnold said he didn't see the alleged handball by Ibini.
"We've had plenty go against us, so for once we've had one go for us."
Arnold said his young defenders Zac Anderson and Trent Sainsbury were superb and pointed out the team had won without three of its leadership group in McBreen, Hutchinson and injured defender Patrick Zwaanswijk.
"Tonight confirmed to me that we definitely have the depth to continue and go forward," Arnold said.
"The performance in the first half I think was a bit down for both teams because of the heat, but in the second half when the sun was gone it was a much better spectacle," Arnold said.
He rated Rogic a 75 per cent chance of remaining at the club after the January transfer window and goalkeeper Mat Ryan 100 per cent. AAP