Step by step, the Wellington Phoenix's resurrection is slowly taking shape.
A 1-1 draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers has seen the Phoenix avoid losing for the second straight game – remarkably their longest unbeaten streak this season.
They're still bottom of the A-League ladder, and highly unlikely to make the playoffs, but there's reasons for more optimism in Wellington, after a solid last four games.
A 0-0 draw with Central Coast, a 2-1 defeat to Melbourne City, and a 2-1 win over the Melbourne Victory show the signs of a side growing in stature, and a defence which has gone from being the worst in the league, to a potentially respectable unit.
That trend was consolidated against Western Sydney, with a strong second half performance overriding a sloppy opening in a game they arguably should have won.
Western Sydney were on top in the first half, and a familiar foe put the Phoenix in an early hole.
Wanderers striker Brendon Santalab notched his eighth goal in his last five games against the Phoenix; with a crisp volley going through the grasp of Phoenix custodian Lewis Italiano.
While Wanderers bossed possession and deserved their early advantage, the Phoenix created chances on the counter. Roy Krishna drew a save from visiting keeper Vedran Janjetovic, who then watched a scuffed Andrija Kaluderovic roll wide of his right post.
Despite the flurry of chances, the Phoenix were struggling to string passes together, and Phoenix coach Darije Kalezic was quick to react, making a double change at halftime. On came new signings Nathan Burns and Matija Ljujic, and though some may argue they should have been starting, their introduction proved pivotal as the Phoenix changed their shape.
Immediately, the hosts grew into the game, showing attacking bite. Burns was quick to cause problems down the left, forcing a save and driving in dangerous crosses.
However, it was Ljujic, in just his second game for the sub, who earned the hosts a point.
Picking up the ball 35 metres out, the Serbian midfielder took advantage of the Wanderers defence backing off him, moving into the space before firing a rasping drive from distance which found the bottom corner.
He nearly had a second after Janjetovic struggled to clear his lines shortly after, and the Phoenix were suddenly in control, sending wave after wave of attacks at the Wanderers goal.
Western Sydney kept them at bay, but with four minutes to play, a second yellow card to Wanderers defender Brendan Hamill gave the Phoenix a final boost.
They nearly made the most of it. In the dying stages, Matt Ridenton found himself through on goal, with unmarked men alongside him.
However, he completely butchered the chance, firing a limp shot which was easily saved, and the Phoenix's chance to finally get off the bottom of the table went begging.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Matija Ljujic)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Brendon Santalab)