DEFENDER Lachlan Jackson suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury as the Newcastle Jets lost 2-1 to Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium on Friday night.
Jackson was carried from the field in obvious distress after his left knee buckled awkwardly underneath him when he tried to block a cross in the 23rd minute.
The loss of the 24-year-old was a body blow for a Newcastle team who welcomed back skipper Nigel Boogaard for his first game in 11 weeks.
Boogaard had been sidelined with a groin problem, but the veteran stopper was reinstated to the starting team and lined up in a new-look back three alongside Jackson and Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
The Jets should have led 1-0 at half-time after a long breakaway by Matt Millar in the 31st minute, only for Jason Hoffman to blast his shot over the crossbar.
The Phoenix made Newcastle pay in the 53rd minute when Jaushua Sotirio outpaced Jackson's replacement, Johnny Koutroumbis, to score.
Despite suggestions that Sotirio was offside, the VAR allowed the goal to stand.
The Jets hit back with an Abdiel Arroyo equaliser in the 66th minute, when the Panamanian striker pounced on a defensive error.
Mexican import Ulises Davila put Wellington back in the lead three minutes later after a goalmouth scramble.
The Jets came close to salvaging a point on a couple of occasions but were denied by outstanding goalkeeping from Stefan Marinovic.
The Jets have now lost seven of their past eight games, including three successive defeats under caretaker coach Craig Deans.
It remains to be seen if Jets officials will have a new coach in place before Saturday week's home clash with Western United.
Newcastle remain last by four points and will slide even deeper into the cellar if Central Coast beat Brisbane on Saturday.
The defeat also continued their horror run in Wellington. In 18 visits to the New Zealand capital, Newcastle have been beaten 14 times. They have now lost five consecutive games at the "Cake Tin" by a combined scoreline of 15-3.