The two trophy winners from the 2012-13 season showed why they were the best as the Mariners and Wanderers played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night.
There were a lot of questions surrounding the Championship winning Central Coast Mariners coming in to this match after losing so many of their players following the Grand Final win, most notably in goal with Mat Ryan leaving for Europe.
Western Sydney, last year's premiers, tested that change early with Justin Pasfield passing his early test in the 15th minute as the Wanderers forced him to make quick back-to-back saves after a scramble in the goal mouth.
It was the visitors who were on top in the opening stages with Youssuf Hersi sending his shot over the bar before Storm Roux showed that he will be a dangerous prospect for the Mariners this season as he made a solid run up the wing but could only find defense with his cross intended for Nick Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had another chance in the 21st minute before Western Sydney went close to opening the scoring as Josh Rose lost possession allowing Mateo Poljak a chance to shoot but he went just wide.
Central Coast thought they'd earned a penalty moments later as Roux and Adam D'Apuzzo fought for the ball in the box with Roux going to ground only for Kris Griffiths-Jones to wave play-on as the half ended scoreless.
The Mariners took the lead ten minutes in to the second half with some wonderful flowing football ending with Marcos Flores finding Mitchell Duke who sent home the opening goal.
That forced Tony Popovic in to making some attacking changes including bringing his superstar, Shinji Ono off of the bench in an effort to take the game to the Central Coast.
That brought more service to striker Mark Bridge with two solid chances falling to him in the 62nd minute and 74th minute as the Mariners defense, hard hit with changes in the close season, stood firm in their first test.
Ono nearly got his side back on level terms with nine minutes to play as he hit a wonderful free-kick that was matched by a superb save from Pasfield, standing up after the departure of Ryan.
The pressure from Western Sydney eventually paid off with three minutes to play as their new man, Tomi Juric scored the late equalizer as he sent home Hersi's cross.