Kalifa Cisse was the villain as he cost Central Coast Mariners the chance of pulling off one of the upsets of A-League season away at Sydney FC.
Instead Alex Brosque netted his first hat trick in the competition and Adam Le Fondre made history in a 5-2 victory over the 10-man Mariners at Jubilee Stadium on Friday.
Connor Pain and Aiden O'Neill both scored for the visitors, though Aaron Calver had the final say to provisionally lift the Sky Blues to the top of the table.
Central Coast were dreaming of their first victory of the campaign early when Pain beat Andrew Redmayne at his near post for the opener.
But then came two moments of madness from Cisse that resulted in two yellow cards and a confrontation with assistant coach Nick Montgomery after he was sent off in the 26th minute.
First the former Premier League defender was carded for kicking the ball away following a contentious foul, he then unnecessarily flew into a dangerous tackle on Siem de Jong.
Cisse was chastised by Montgomery as he exited the field, and the seething defender responded by stepping into the coach's box to fire back at the club legend.
And while the Mariners held on to retain their one-goal lead at half-time, it didn't take long for Steve Corica's side to take advantage of the extra man after the break.
"I thought we deserved the lead at half-time." Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said. "We definitely deserved to be in front. We played some fantastic football, and we had them on the back foot. The send off changed everything."
In fact, it took just 10 minutes for Sydney FC to put away the struggling Mariners.
Brosque began the rout in the 49th minute with an exquisite back-heel of a De Jong cross.
Two minutes later De Jong, in what was easily his best outing for the club in his debut season, provided a teasing through ball that drew a contentious foul in the box from Jacob Melling.
The Mariners midfielder appeared to have got the ball ahead of Le Fondre, however replays showed his back leg also caught the Sky Blues striker.
And the league's leading scorer made no mistake from the spot to score his 10th goal in 11 games and beating the competition record for the milestone set by Bruno Fornaroli. The out-of-favour Melbourne City star reached double figures in 12 games in 2015-16.
Brosque continued the avalanche when he reacted quickly to Ben Kennedy's save of his initial header, getting up quickly to volley home in the 58th minute.
The Sydney FC captain completed his hat trick with a delightful chip over Kennedy six minutes later, before leaving the match to a standing ovation from the crowd of 12,053.
"Unbelievable, mate," Corica said of Brosque's performance. "He was excellent tonight, took his goals very well, especially the last one. I thought he was superb. To chip the keeper like that, was very good."
Calver ensured the Sky Blues inched past Perth Glory on goal difference by volleying home from the far post in the dying minutes.