Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold was sensationally sent from the field but his team rallied without him to earn a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory at Aurora Stadium on Saturday.
Arnold received his marching orders just before halftime for what appeared to be comments directed at match officials.
Referee Jarred Gillett banished him to the stands after conferring with his linesman soon after his side had gone a goal down as the Victory dominated the first half.
The Victory couldn't convert a weight of chances into anything more than Marcos Flores' 42nd-minute goal.
But some subtle halftime tweaks and a much improved second half allowed the Mariners to get back on level terms with 13 minutes remaining thanks to a Daniel McBreen penalty.
Victory skipper Adrian Leijer's clumsy challenge, which bundled over Michael McGlinchey, earned the spot-kick after the Mariners had lifted markedly in the second half and pressed hard for an equaliser.
Elsewhere in a tense game there was a missed Victory penalty - Marco Rojas shaving the post with a poor first half effort - and world-class saves from Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan and Victory's Nathan Coe.
But the Victory will rue not putting the league leaders to the scoreboard sword in the first half, playing superb football but missing several good chances.
After a week in which sundry Mariners' players have been linked with being sold abroad, the team spent the first half looking exactly like a shop window - full of mannequins as Victory pinned them deep in their territory for virtually the entire first 45 minutes.
Rojas' missed spot-kick and a horrible point-blank miss from Archie Thompson came back to bite them.
Much of the Victory's fluidity drained away in the second half as the Mariners found far more rhythm and were able to shake off Victory's hugely effective pressing game in midfield which had troubled them in the first.
Both goalkeepers made extraordinary saves midway through the second half - Coe first pulling off a magic reflex save to deny McGlinchey on 63 minutes.
Then two minutes later, Ryan twice stopped Rojas - the second time twisting mid-air to turn over the New Zealander's audacious chip.
The Mariners now hold a two-point advantage atop the table, with the Victory remaining third.