Brisbane Roar's stranglehold on the premiers' plate suddenly looks shaky after the A-League leaders' previously shiny prospects took another shot following the loss of key defender Luke DeVere.
DeVere has sacrificed the chance to win a premiership and grand final by signing a three-year transfer deal with South Korean outfit Gyeongnam FC that will see him leave Brisbane next week.
The Roar have managed to convince Gyeongnam the former Young Socceroos captain should remain for an A-League swansong against Wellington on Australia Day but won't stand in the way of the 21-year-old joining them by the end of the month.
A definite Socceroos prospect, DeVere admitted it was unfortunate timing but the immediate move was one he needed to make for his own career development.
"It's tough to leave the Roar, especially at this point in the season, but at the same time it's a good opportunity for me I feel and the level of football over there is a good step up from the A-League," he said on Friday.
From holding a 12-point competition lead a fortnight ago, courtesy of a 21-match unbeaten streak, and boasting a dream run into the finals in Queensland, Brisbane are now vulnerable with a seven-point advantage over the in-form Central Coast, who have a match in hand.
Of their four matches left, three were scheduled at home but the state's flood disaster has seen two, and potentially all three, moved from an off-limits Suncorp Stadium to Gold Coast's much-maligned Skilled Park, where its feared a bumpy surface will negatively impact on their vibrant passing game.
But coach Ange Postecoglou denied there was any more pressure on his side and assured they would not panic in looking for a replacement for DeVere.
"Nothing has really changed for us," Postecoglou said.
"I think probably the spanner in the works which no one can control is we've lost three home games, potentially.
"Sitting here with four games to go with three at Suncorp everything was looking pretty good."
DeVere anointed "natural" centre-back Milan Susak, who has been playing right fullback, as the man to fill the hole in central defence next to Matt Smith.
The return of another fullback, Ivan Franjic, from a hamstring injury should also aid the Roar's in covering the loss of their best defender, but the club will also look at recruiting a quality player to add depth.
While supportive, Postecoglou admitted he would have preferred to see DeVere stay as the Roar chase their first Asian Cup berth and premiership.
"It would have been nice for him to be there right until the end and he would have got something out of that as well," the former Young Socceroos coach said.
"He's made that decision and we're supportive of that and I'm sure he'll go one to bigger and brighter things."
Big A-League central defenders are the flavour of the month in Korea following the success of Socceroos hardman Sasa Ognenovski and DeVere becomes the third to sign a K-League contract in recent weeks behind Bas van den Brink and Iain Fyfe.