MARINERS boss Phil Moss gave a ringing endorsement for the South Coast's A-League chances, after his Central Coast outfit knocked the Wolves out of the FFA Cup on Wednesday night.
A 13th minute goal from Glen Trifiro ended the Wolves hopes of an FFA Cup fairytale in a 1-0 win for the former A-League champions.
But it was off the pitch where the true battle may well have been won.
A crowd of 5238 fans tumbled through the games at WIN Stadium, a figure close to double that of any other match in the competition thus far.
It prompted Moss to encourage the return of Wollongong to the national scene.
"I would like to say that any bid for an A-League club from this area should be fully supported," Moss said.
"It is a fantastic football area and I think, tonight, the Wollongong public really showed they are hungry for an A-League team.
"I hope the people backing it do come out publicly and push for a club down here because it is a fantastic area and great facility down here."
Moss's thoughts were also shared by the night's hero.
Trifiro scored the game's winner in the opening quarter of an hour, after he was played in by an incisive Josh Rose pass.
"I know there is great support in Wollongong. I know they have tried and there has been talk that maybe there is a chance for another A-League team here and it shows with 5000 turning out tonight, it shows there is support in Wollongong," Trifiro said.
On the night, only the woodwork would kept the Mariners from extending their advantage as Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald came close in quick succession.
Duke first struck the post in the 37th minute before just five minutes later, Fitzgerald deflected his looped free-kick off the crossbar.
The Mariners took their 1-0 lead into the break, but the Wolves again upped the anti in the second half.
The underdogs came out of the change rooms with much more purpose and peppered the Mariners goal.
Half-time substitute Jordan Murray's pace and energy caused immediate problems and the former Bulli product helped craft the Wolves' best chance of the match.
After winning the ball on the touchline, Murray crossed inside to Sam Matthews inside the six-yard box. But the midfielder had his chance snuffed out by a sensational last ditch challenge from Nick Montgomery.
They continued to have the better of possession in the second half, but weren't able to break down the Mariners defence.
Murray resorted to firing from long-range in the 68th minute, only to see his attempt fly into the stands.
The chances came thick and fast in the final 10 minutes, but neither team could add to the scoresheet.
"I am very proud. They left everything out there on the field and you couldn't ask more as a coach," Wolves coach Nahuel Arrarte said after the match.
"We spoke about it before the game. Playing against a top-four side from last year at the start of their preseason and we gave it a real shake.
"You could definitely see their class and composure but I suppose from our end we had to match it in other areas.
"Our effort was all there but ultimately we couldn't execute."