Central Coast midfielder John Hutchinson says the A-League premiership had been the Mariners to lose and admits they'll now need a miracle to finish on top.
The Mariners host last-placed Wellington at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night in one of four matches that will help decide who finishes in top spot and collects a Asian Champions League berth.
The Gosford-based club sits equal with Queensland, Sydney FC and Newcastle on 31 competition points but three goals behind the Roar on goal difference.
That means they will need a win over the Phoenix, most likely a comfortable one, as well as hoping other results go their way.
The Mariners were dominant leaders for most of the year and had been tipped to cruise to the minor premiership but have stumbled at the post by losing four of their last six matches.
"It was definitely ours to lose," Hutchinson said of the minor premiership.
"I don't think any other team could have actually won it, we were the only team that could have lost it.
"And we've definitely lost it, and we need a bit of a miracle to win it now but all we can do is win our game and hopefully the results go our way.
"If they don't, we'll just have to aim to win the grand final."
After last Saturday's 2-1 loss to the in-form Jets, Hutchinson said it would be crucial to beat Wellington to regain some sort of momentum heading into the finals.
"I think every team hits their low spot and we've probably hit our low spot at the wrong time of the year," Hutchinson said.
"We started off really well but at the moment it has just not been going our way.
"All we're focusing on this week is getting a win and you don't want another loss going into the finals because that means we haven't won a game for a long time so we need to get a win."
Hutchinson, who received a called up to Pim Verbeek's recent Socceroos training camps, was not willing to underestimate the Phoenix, who despite sitting in last have been far from disgraced in their inaugural season.
The New Zealanders have proven themselves capable of an upset this year against the likes of Sydney and Newcastle.
They will welcome back suspended midfielder Ross Aloisi in what will be his first match against his brother, Mariners striker John, while Tony Lochhead and Costa Barbarouses also return.
Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna is likely to stick with the same side that went down to the Jets.