The Washington Diplomats had a chance to pick up points on the rival Cosmos tonight, but lost ground when a penalty kick in the second overtime gave the California Surf a 2-1 victory.
Defender Bob Iarusic, the only player in the league to play on the last three NASL championship teams, fouled explosive Laurie Abrahams in the penalty area, resulting in the game-winning kick at 101:40.
Steve David beat goalkepper Bill Irwin with the 12-yard blast, lifting the Surf into first place in the Western Division of the American Conference.
The loss dropped the Diplomats to 16-8 for the season, good for 142 points.
The Cosmo won, 1-0, at Philadelphia, upping their point lead to 162.
The Dips appeared to have the game won in regulation on Sunny Askew's sixth goal of the season, but if failed to stand up.
The first half started with a bang for both teams. Alan Green, the leading Dip scorer-depite not having found the net since June 27-missed an abandoned net 45 seconds into the match.
A short pass back to Surf goalkeeper Dave Jokerst went astray, leaving Green alone only six yards awaty from from the open goal. His shot dribbled harmlessly into the side netting.
For the Surf, an equally golden opportunity presented itself within the thre three-minute mark of the match. But the shot of legt winger Les Barett cracked off the far post, rolling past California, midfeilder Mark Linsay and out of harm's way.
Green, who sat out the Vancouver win Wednesday with a right foot contusion, seemed intent on adding to his goal total of 11. Just minutes after his near-miss, he launched a missile from 15 yards that bounced off the crossbar. Only a fine diving save by Jokerst repulsed him midway through the half.
The diplomats continued to pentrate the defensed of the Surf, who wen t into the game traiiling first-place San Deigo bby only ssix points in the American Conference, Western Division race.
The Surf were buoyed by the recent play of Abrahams, who scored five goals in his first four games after joining California from Tulsa July 7. Abrahams had netted 15 goals and added six assists to rank in the league's top 10 scorers with 36 points.
The Dips managed the better scoring chances in the first half, however, outshooting the Surf, 13-7.
A corner kick by midfielder Joe Horvath would up on the boot of striker Paul Cannell, six yards in front of the Surf goal. But another fine save by Jokerst from point-blank range kept the Dips looking for their first goal.
Green finally made the play that put the Diplomas on the board at 58:42. He dribbled twice before aliding a pass through two Surf defenders to Askew, who drilled it into the back of the net.
It was Green's sixth assist to go along with 11 goals for 28 points.
California came within inches of getting the equalizer in the 70th minute. Irwin managed to deflect a crossing shot past the foot of an onrushing Abrahams.
California kept applying late-game pressure. Three straight corner kicks, the third featuring some fancy foot-work by former NASL All-Star Wolf-gang Suhnlolz, fired up the Surf fans, but to no avail.
Irwin, along with defender Jim Steele and Horvath, kept the California attack at bay.
The Surf attack contined, however, positive results coming at the 87:56 mark.
Surf player-coach Peter Wall pushed the ball to late-game substitute Steve Meyers, who sent it along to Abraham. The Englishman, who came over from Charton Athelic last season with New Zealand's Mike Falnagan, made it sixth goals in five games for the Surf,sending the game into overtime.