Melbourne Victory halted Central Coast's A-League revival to put themselves within eight points of Sydney FC a day after the leaders suffered their first defeat of the season.
Golden boot leader Besart Berisha celebrated his 150th league appearance with a goal in each half on Sunday, alongside James Troisi's 58th-minute strike in Gosford.
The result stopped the ninth-placed Mariners claiming a fourth consecutive win in their push for an unlikely play-off spot.
For Victory, it was a valuable three points after getting just one win in five games, and keeps them in the hunt for the Premiers' Plate. Berisha, Troisi and Marco Rojas rediscovered the attacking freedom sorely missed in last week's lacklustre draw with Newcastle.
"We took some good learnings out of that and tonight was a complete contrast," Muscat said. "The most pleasing thing from my end was the way we controlled the game ... that contrast of pressing high and dropping in was superb."
Both sides enjoyed opportunities in a high-tempo start but the Mariners rarely tested goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas and often found themselves under pressure. They paid for it 25 minutes in, when the visitors carved through their hosts' defence with ease for an excellent team goal.
Rojas started the play, passing to Daniel Georgievski, who was lurking in the box and crossed to the centre where Berisha was ready for the tap-in.
Troisi, in superb form that will surely have him back in Socceroos contention come March's crucial World Cup qualifiers, turned scorer in the second stanza when he embarked on a solo foray before firing past Paul Izzo from an acute angle.
Berisha landed the killer blow in injury-time, burying his 16th goal of the season.
"We expected that after them not performing that great against Newcastle," Mariners coach Paul Okon said. "I guess they came here smelling a little bit of blood."