CARSON -- The Galaxy couldn't have felt much better about things as the clock hit 75 minutes Wednesday night: Their best performance of the season had been rewarded with a two-goal lead, and although they were down to 10 men, they were in control. Hold on another 15 minutes, plus a few more in stoppage, and they'd have their first victory in a month.
But in a season in which nearly everything that can go wrong has, L.A. found a new, most devastating way to fall, surrendering three goals over the final 20 minutes -- the last deep in stoppage -- to drop its fourth game in the last five, a 3-2 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes that left a lot of heads shaking.
Alan Gordon's header in the 94th minute delivered the knockout blow, handing the Galaxy their seventh league defeat, extending their winless streak to six games and leaving them in the Western Conference basement, 16 points off the lead.
“We played awful well tonight not to get something out of this game. It's a shame,” noted Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “You make your own breaks, and tonight we were in position to get three points and really turned that game over.”
Bell Gardens' Hector Jimenez, making just his second MLS start, third league appearance and 2012 debut, scored a fine goal in the third minute to give L.A. an advantage but was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Steven Beitashour in the 59th minute, and the Galaxy (3-7-2, 11 points) -- dominant to that point -- watched everything change in a matter of minutes.
First, they doubled their lead, with Mike Magee taking a pass on the break from David Beckham, then beating Quakes defender Jason Hernandez and stepping past goalkeeper Jon Busch to fire into the goal's ceiling in the 73rd minute.
Three minutes later, Yorba Linda's Steven Lenhart got one back for San Jose, a near-post header from Marvin Chavez's corner kick, and the Quakes were on the front foot the rest of the way.
“We're ahead 2-0, I don't know how many minutes left,” Arena said. “Really a poor tactical approach on our behalf. We shouldn't get beat on a restart for a goal. That let them back in the game. And we can't lose the ball in our defensive half. We have to play the ball up the field, we have to pull in collectively as a group and defend with our 10 players and play the game out, get the three points and go home.”
Khari Stephenson tied the score in the 82nd minute, converting a penalty kick after Beckham handled the ball while leaping to block a drive by Hernandez. A turnover led to the winner, with Hernandez again pumping the ball into the box and Gordon, who scored equalizers in the 88th and 90th minutes of San Jose's last two games, escaped Sean Franklin's mark and soared above A.J. DeLaGarza to nod it into the net.
“I just was following up the play,” said Gordon, who played for the Galaxy from 2004 through 2010. “I think there may have been a little bit of hesitation on their part, and I was just seeing the play through. They hesitated, I didn't, I finished it. Forwards get lucky sometimes. I got lucky. Who cares? I put it in, end of story, period.”
The Galaxy was happy with their game, at least the first 70 minutes, and said to a man there was plenty with which to be pleased. But the way they lost -- the red card, giving up a two-goal lead, conceding the winner in stoppage time -- left a most sour taste.
“There's a lot of head-scratching going on,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “But it's important for us to know we've got to learn from out mistakes tonight and build on the performance we had, because it was a good performance. Look at this game compared to our last game [Saturday night's SuperClasico loss to Chivas USA], and it's night and day.”
San Jose (8-2-3), which surged past Real Salt Lake and back atop the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings, were all over L.A. at the end. Sean Franklin said the Galaxy, which was missing captain Landon Donovan and star striker Robbie Keane, were “immature” in how they handled the pressure, but Beckham credited the Quakes.
“They keep going. Full credit to them,” Beckham said. “They saw us with 10 men, and they just attacked us. They did it all game, playing long balls up to the big man [Lenhart] up top, and they got the pieces off of that. They continued to do that, and at some point you are going to get chances.
“If we could have kept the 2-nil lead for another five, 10 minutes, I think we would have been OK. But, obviously, the momentum turned as soon as they got that goal, and there were  minutes left, so full credit to them. ... I don't think they were the better team, but I think that they battled and they came out on top.”
WORTH NOTING: Brian Gaul, making just his second MLS appearance, played the full 90 in central defense. ... Defender Andrew Boyens underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a sports hernia.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Home Depot Center (Carson)
Galaxy 2, San Jose Earthquakes 3
LA -- Hector Jimenez (Chad Barrett, Juninho) 3
LA -- Mike Magee (David Beckham) 73
SJ -- Steven Lenhart (Marvin Chavez) 76
SJ -- Khari Stephenson pen. 82
SJ -- Alan Gordon (Jason Hernandez) 94+
Galaxy: Brian Perk; Sean Franklin, Brian Gaul, A.J. DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant; Hector Jimenez, David Beckham, Juninho (Michael Stephens, 85), Mike Magee; Chad Barrett, Edson Buddle (Kyle Nakazawa, 68). Unused subs: Bill Gaudette, Bryan Jordan, Leonardo, Pat Noonan, Marcelo Sarvas.
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch; Steven Beitashour, Ike Opara, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow; Rafael Baca (Marvin Chavez, 74), Sam Cronin (Khari Stephenson, 66), Tressor Moreno, Simon Dawkins, Sercan Guvenisik (Alan Gordon, 46), Steven Lenhart. Unused subs: David Bingham, Ramiro Corrales, Sam Garza, Brad Ring.
Yellow cards: Lenhart 47, Beckham 81, Gordon 95+. Red card: Jimenez 59.
Referee: Jair Marrufo. Att.: 16,512.
Records: Galaxy 3-7-2, 11 points; San Jose 8-2-3, 27.