Goals from Sebastian Ryall and Rhyan Grant gave coach Frank Farina a perfect start to his Sydney FC tenure with a 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix.
Sydney had not won in the New Zealand capital since January 2008 but deserved their victory, which brought a five-game winless streak to an end.
Ryall exposed the Phoenix defence to head home on the stroke of half-time to open the scoring and Grant doubled the visitors’ lead with a nicely-taken strike with just over 20 minutes to go.
But Sydney ended the match with 10 men after Terry McFlynn was sent off for a second bookable offence with five minutes to go.
The drama continued in stoppage time when Adam Griffiths brought down Manny Muscat in the box and Jeremy Brockie converted the consolation penalty.
This was always going to be a danger game for the Phoenix, given Sydney’s position on the table and their previous results in Wellington.
Sydney were simply desperate not to lose Farina’s first game in charge.
They fought for every scrap of possession and then hung on grimly with 10 men as the Phoenix pressed hard for the equaliser.
It was two players returning to the Sydney starting line-up – Jason Culina and Ryall – that produced the sucker-punch just before the break as the visitors took a 1-0 lead.
Sydney took a short corner and Culina swung the ball in to the far post where Ryall made an unmarked run to head the ball home.
It capped off a solid opening spell for the under-fire Sky Blues who harried the Phoenix and gave danger men Paul Ifill, Stein Huysegems and Brockie very little time or space on the ball.
Culina, making his first start since returning from long-term injury, controlled things well in the midfield for Sydney in his 60 minutes on the pitch and his delivery from set-pieces was inch perfect.
Despite the good conditions, neither side retained possession for any great length of time in the first half, particularly through the midfield where Muscat and McFlynn did not hold back.
However, it was Brockie, McFlynn and Blake Powell who were cautioned by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones.
For all the effort, chances were few and far between.
Sydney’s first fell to Powell in the opening couple of minutes but Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante got his body in the way.
Yairo Yau had a golden opportunity for the visitors in the 16th minute after a great free-kick to the back post from Culina.
Yau was left totally unmarked but fired over Mark Paston’s goal.
Two minutes later, Vince Lia blasted his long-range effort straight at Vedran Janjetovic.
The Phoenix’s best chance of the first half fell to Brockie, who had scored six goals in five games coming into the encounter.
But he could only find the side netting with his sharp volley from Ifill’s pinpoint cross.
With the clock winding down, Sydney earned their first corner and made the Phoenix pay for their sloppy defending.
The second half was scrappy and Ricki Herbert’s substitutes were unable to make a big difference.
Instead, it was Sydney who extended their lead when McFlynn’s superb pass put Grant through and he coolly slotted home.
There was little warning of the drama to follow though.
It started when McFlynn accidentally handled just outside the area to earn his second yellow.
Brockie’s free-kick went straight to Janjetovic before another minutes later slid past the left-hand upright.
The Phoenix continued to press forward and when Griffiths brought down Muscat in the box to earn himself a yellow card, Brockie made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Brockie pen 90+2)
Sydney FC 2 (Ryall 45+1, Grant 69)
Crowd: 7,375 @Westpac Stadium
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Vedran Janjetovic The keeper played with authority and confidence – something the Sky Blues have been sorely missing of late.