Sydney FC's hopes of sending coach Vitezslav Lavicka out a winner took a nose dive as the Sky Blues were pummelled 5-2 by a resurgent Newcastle Jets on Sunday.
Sydney announced on Friday Lavicka would depart at the end of the A-League season by "mutual consent" and his players vowed to do everything they could to make the 2009/10 championship winning coach's last months memorable.
But if the announcement inspired the Sky Blues they certainly didn't show it at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday, trailing 3-0 at halftime before having a second-half rally killed off by a rampant Jets.
Lavicka said after the match he was relieved that his future was now clear but admitted to expecting more of a response from the team.
"It is a relief for me because every interview before, one of the question was asking about my future. Now it's all clear," Lavicka said.
"As I've said, I will do my best to reach as best we can together with the team.
"... But to be honest I expected a bit different response tonight.
"That's football though, we don't give up. We have seven games to go. It means 21 points to go and we still have belief and we work hard."
The loss resulted in Sydney (24 points) dropping out of the top six for the first time this season, with the Jets (25) leapfrogging them into sixth.
The Sky Blues also missed a chance to build a buffer on Melbourne Victory (22) and Adelaide (20) in an increasingly desperate scrap for finals places.
Central Coast (40) remain well clear ahead of the chasing pack, but their lead was cut to seven points after suffering a 2-0 loss to Brisbane in Gosford on Saturday night, their first loss in 16 matches.
Wellington (33) sit in second place after a 3-1 win away to Adelaide on Friday night, with the Roar a further point back on 32.
The second and third placed sides meet in Wellington next Sunday in what shapes as a crucial match in the build-up towards the finals.
"They (Wellington) are hitting some real good form and getting some real momentum as well and I think this is going to be one of probably the most exciting finals races we've had," Roar coach Ange Postecoglou said.
"A lot of teams are hitting some good form - it's going to be fun."
Four-placed Perth (28) host last-placed Gold Coast (15) on Monday.