The Wellington Phoenix were beaten 3-1 by Western Sydney in New Plymouth last night casting serious doubts over their playoff hopes.
The defeat has dropped them back into eighth on the A-League football ladder.
A clinical Western Sydney punished Wellington on the counter, with a Brendon Santalab brace the difference at Yarrow Stadium.
In the 22nd minute Santalab found himself open inside the box and his stroked effort frustratingly evaded Glen Moss's outstretched arm to open the scoring.
Just as Wellington seemed most dominant Wanderers sprung a rare counter attack with Santalab turning provider for Nico Martinez to score just his third A-League goal.
It went from bad to worse in the 65th minute as a turnover gifted Wanderers possession inside the box, with Santalab firing home to give Moss no chance.
In the 70th minute, Wellington found a glimmer of hope after a dangerous cutback from Gui Finkler was handled in the box, enabling Smeltz to thump home his first A-League goal since his return from the spot.
A brilliant save from Janjetovic then denied Barbarouses a second, after the wide forward jinked past two before shooting from an acute angle.
The sending off of Smeltz following a second yellow card took the wind from Wellington's sails, with Wanderers running out the last few moments in relative comfort against the 10 men Phoenix.
At the post-game presser Head Coach Des Buckingham was circumspect in defeat.
"We had good spells in the game where we controlled a lot of the possession but we never looked really effective with it. Western Sydney scored with their first attack of the game and went one-nil up."
"I thought the yellow cards were very harsh, I thought there was a standard set in the first five minutes where's he's booked Andrew Durante for a header.
We've had a player sent off and we've had four yellow cards, and we've committed fifteen fouls - in a game that watching from the sidelines, wasn't that kind of game."
"I think it's important we don't get carried away - it's a three-one loss. We never got carried away after the 3-0 win over the Melbourne Victory, we've had a steady run - it's been baby steps since [Chris and I] took over."
"Tonight's a hurdle - we need to make sure we pick up points from the last nine games."