The A-League breakaway has begun, and Brisbane manager John Aloisi is anticipating mind games from Sydney FC counterpart Graham Arnold as the top two teams prepare to butt heads.
Aloisi's unfancied second coming as coach could hardly have been more meritorious, with second place on the table the reward for his side's three wins from four matches.
The Roar provided the perfect response to last week's loss to Wellington, with a hard-earned 3-0 home defeat of a resistant Adelaide on Saturday.
But it's Friday's blockbuster that shapes as his greatest test.
Despite their far-from-perfect form, Sydney are sitting pretty on the leaders' perch with 10 points - one ahead of Brisbane - after toppling Central Coast 3-1.
"I'm expecting mind games from Arnie as he normally will," said Aloisi, who was praised this week by Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou.
"But we'll just focus on what we have to do.
"We're confident against any side in this league. We know Sydney's a good side, Arnie's a good coach.
"If we keep on improving we should be OK, but it's going to be a difficult game."
Ex-Central Coast Striker Matt Simon was the hero for the Sky Blues in his first return to the venue he called home for nearly a decade, scoring a late brace to break the 1-1 deadlock in a contentious and haywire match in which the Mariners were reduced to 10 men.
Milos Ninkovic will be back to face Brisbane after Arnold rested the Serbian No.10 against the Mariners, though they may be without his compatriot Milos Dimitrijevic, who came off with a tight groin.
Simon warned there was more quality to come from Sydney.
"We still haven't put in a nice smooth 90 minutes yet but I feel as though we're building," Simon said.
"As soon as we do that we'll be doing some pretty good things."
But both Arnold and Aloisi will be looking over their shoulders at the season's surprise packets Newcastle, threatening in third and on equal points with the Roar.
Forecast to fail from the start, the Jets again silenced naysayers by rallying from 2-0 down to pip Melbourne City 3-2 on Friday and briefly sit atop the ladder.
New coach Scott Miller was content for his hardworking team to be underestimated.
"People continue to do it and they can continue to do it as far as we're concerned - we quite enjoy it," he said.
"But the benchmark has been set."
The benchmark isn't so clear for Melbourne Victory, who have only one win.
If the defending champions lose to fourth-placed Wellington on Monday they'll find themselves on the wrong side of an emerging gulf in the ladder, and at least five points adrift of the top four.
But coach Kevin Muscat isn't fazed, saying his team have dominated their first three matches despite a lack of results.
Western Sydney finally opened their season account on Sunday with a 1-0 home defeat of Perth Glory thanks to a first-half Dario Vidosic strike.
It means Adelaide are now the only side yet to taste victory, as pressure mounts on new coach and former Barcelona great Guillermo Amor.