NEWCASTLE Jets' hopes of miraculous run to the A-League play-offs were dealt a severe blow when they went down 1-0 to a resolute Brisbane Roar in a gripping contest at CBus Stadium on Friday night.
A piece of quality from former Socceroo Scott McDonald in the 16th minute was the difference in a battle dominated by defence.
Roy O'Donovan had a chance in stoppage time to snatch an equaliser when Dimi Petratos whipped a cross to the back post.
The striker, who spent the first half of the season with Brisbane, made good contact with his volley but it cannoned into the right post.
The Jets had the better of possession. They huffed and puffed but were frustrated by a compact and committed Roar rear guard.
The defeat was the first in five matches under Carl Robinson and left Newcastle stranded on 21 points, six adrift of sixth-placed Western United with five games remaining.
The Jets were scheduled to host Wellington Phoenix on Sunday, but the COVID 19 crisis forced the A-League to revise the draw and play in front of empty stadiums
The Jets back up at home on Monday night against a Melbourne City outfit fresh from a 4-2 rout of Central Coast on Friday night - the Mariners 10th straight defeat.
Robinson resisted the temptation to bring Adbiel Arroyo into the starting side and stuck with the XI which did the job against Adelaide United.
As you would expect with two in-form teams, there was little between the two in a cagey opening 15 minutes.
It was going to take a touch of class to unlock the defence and McDonald produced it, stabbing a shot from just outside the penalty area inside the left post.
From that point on it was an arm wrestle.
Space was at a premium as the Roar sat back and Petratos and Wes Hoolahan had to drop deep and deeper to get on the ball.
O'Donovan had the Jets' best chance of the first half in the 34th minute when he collected a ball over the top. But his first touch didn't sit up for him and allowed Tom Aldred enough time to get a piece on the shot and deflect for a corner.
The Jets had 55% of possession in the first half but couldn't manufacture a shot on target. The Roar had three.
The home side went close to doubling their advantage six minutes after the break when Aldred found space in the box.
His shot from 10 metres was well saved by Lewis Italiano and striker Mirza Muratovic knocked the rebound into the back of Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
Wide men Matt Millar and Bobby Burns started to get further up the pitch midway through the second half.
Robinson made a double change on the hour, introducing Arroyo for Hoolahan and Joe Ledley for Angus Thurgate.
Arroyo set up a half chance for Millar in the 69th minute but Scott Neville took the ball off the toe of the fullback as he was about to pull the trigger.