Sydney FC defender Tiago Calvano broke down in tears on Wednesday night before receiving a stay of execution for making contact with A-League referee Peter Green.
In an extraordinary and unprecedented case, Calvano faced an anxious wait after an independent disciplinary committee opted to delay announcing the length of his suspension while he was already serving a two-match ban.
Calvano was rubbed out for striking Melbourne Victory star Archie Thompson in Sydney FC's 3-2 win at Allianz Stadium two weeks ago - the same match in which the Brazilian made contact with referee Green.
An independent three-man panel spent almost four hours on Wednesday hearing submissions from Sydney FC and Football Federation Australia before deciding it would be inappropriate to announce their verdict.
But chairman of the disciplinary panel, John Marshall SC, did concede Calvano would be ousted for at least two games and faced the prospect of a much longer ban.
Then-Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic copped a nine-month suspension for grabbing referee Mark Shield in the 2008 A-League grand final.
Marshall said the panel would almost certainly announce the length of Calvano's suspension before Sydney FC's round-eight clash with the Newcastle Jets, by when the defender's current suspension will have been served.
Earlier, Calvano pleaded for compassion on the strength that a season-ending ban would not only jeopardise his playing career but also scupper his dreams of settling in Australia with his wife and two young children.
"I'm not young," the 32-year-old said as he wept.
"Sometimes we make mistakes ... I put my hand on my heart and say I'm sorry."
But the panel showed little sign of sentiment as they contemplated eking out possibly the longest suspension in A-League history.
Vukovic currently holds that dubious record.
Wednesday night's four-hour matter was the first hearing under new A-League rules to be referred to an independent panel by the FFA despite the player not being cited by a match review committee.
As such, Sydney FC's counsel, Elliot Hyde, mounted a desperate defence, chiefly contending that Calvano didn't intentionally knock a red card out of the referee's hand.
Hyde also insisted the contact was not forceful and produced video footage of five other incidents since 2007 where players had not been suspended for making contact with a referee.
But despite giving Calvano's counsel "extra ample time" to make submissions due to seriousness of the charge, Hyde seemed unable to convince the disciplinary committee not to suspend his client for a lengthy period.
"He deliberately tried to prevent the referee from pulling out a red card," panel member Anthony Lo Surno said.
Sydney FC had hoped for a ban of six to eight weeks for the journeyman of 10 clubs and one-time FC Barcelona player, but were told they may have to wait until November 27 to learn of his fate.