Central Coast expect to confront a Melbourne Victory outfit whipped into a menacing frenzy by their recent A-League slump.
Monday night's sluggish stalemate in Newcastle left second-placed Victory with only one win in the last five games.
Mid-season dominance has ensured they remain seven points ahead of third-placed Brisbane, but the pressure will be on to lift for Sunday's clash in Gosford and Mariners coach Paul Okon believes the situation will make Victory even more dangerous.
"It probably does," Okon said.
"One win in five games for a club like that, I guess will in some way would be deemed unacceptable.
"We're the last game of the round, we're expecting a big crowd at home.
"We're going to give Victory a game, and hopefully the result at the end of 90 minutes will be what we've experienced over the past three weeks."
The Mariners, while 17 points and seven spots south of Victory on the table, enter the meeting riding a three-game winning streak and suddenly find themselves in the finals race.
Sunday's 2-0 upset of Western Sydney further lifted morale and prompted first-year coach Okon to hit back at critics who've suggested the Mariners can't play football.
"If people don't believe it then I guess we'll just continue to do what we're doing," he said.
"We're not saying we're going to make the top six, but it's our job as a team and as a club to stay in the running for as long as possible.
"If we can get three points on the weekend that certainly brings us into that equation even more.
Skipper Nick Montgomery is suspended, with Adam Berry the most likely to replace him in midfield.
Jacques Faty has been named in the squad after six weeks out through injury but is underdone and touch and go for a bench spot.
Regardless, Okon will be loath to shift his central defensive pairing of Jacob Poscoliero and Liam Rose, who've leaked just one goal in three games.
STATS THAT MATTER:
- Victory are undefeated in their last 10 games against Central Coast, averaging 2.5 goals per game
- Mariners have scored 43.4 per cent of their goals without an assist, the second-highest percentage of any team behind Newcastle (46.2%)
- Marco Rojas has scored 10 goals, more than any other player who hasn't scored from the penalty spot