Sydney FC have jumped back into finals contention following their 2-1 victory over Adelaide United at Hindmarsh Stadium on Sunday night.

In a match starved of chances it was Sydney who broke the deadlock first right on half-time through attacker Joel Chianese.

Adelaide midfielder Fabian Barbiero equalised shortly after the break before Sky Blues substitute Mitchell Mallia grabbed the winner with 10 minutes to play.

The result comes as a big blow to Adelaide who now sit stranded five points outside the top six while Sydney have propelled into sixth on 30 points.

A frenzied opening minute was the only highlight of an otherwise dour first half as neither side failed to fire and carry on from the electrifying start.

It took Adelaide barely 40 seconds to threaten Sydney when marquee signing Dario Vidosic's in-swinging cross found Nigel Boogaard whose glancing header produced a smart save from Sky Blues custodian Ivan Necevski.

The resulting corner fashioned an identical situation when Boogaard headed in from close range to bring the 8,259 strong Hindmarsh crowd to its feet only for the linesman to disallow the goal following a foul on Necevski.

The match then lost its early gusto with chances hard to come by until in the 12th minute when Adelaide threatened once more.

A diagonal ball from Osama Malik found forward Sergio van Dijk on the edge of Sydney's area where the Dutchman cushioned his header into the path of Iain Ramsay who was streaming in on goal only for Necevski to rush out and meet the ball first.

After a series of unproductive attacks that included numerous over hit passes and crosses in the final third, Sydney finally carved out their first chance on goal in the 29th minute via Nicky Carle.

A one-two knockdown between target man Bruno Cazarine and the speedy Chianese fell kindly to Carle free inside Adelaide's area but he fired his effort just wide.

With the sides set to wander into the break with only four off-target shots between them, Sydney found a unlikely breakthrough through Chianese on the stroke of half-time.

Sky Blues and former Adelaide defender Scott Jamieson's corner caused a stir in the hosts' six yard box as Reds makeshift stopper Evgeniy Levchenko's sloppy clearance fell to Chianese who looped a volley into the net to break the deadlock.

Uncanny to the first half the match again began in frenetic pace with Sydney this time being the first to attack.

Carle found space and drove at the United defence before firing a 20-yard strike that Adelaide United captain and goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic dove to save, as the ever-present Chianese smashed the rebound well over.

Adelaide responded however on 55 minutes when Barbiero turned home an equaliser after van Dijk's header dropped short to the 27-year-old on the line.

The goal ignited Adelaide as they began to push forward ferociously in the hunt for the lead.

The reds almost found it in the 63rd minute albeit a calamitous goal-mouth scramble.

Ramsay threaded through a delicate pass to Vidosic who cut the ball back to van Dijk primed to score from close range only for Sydney gloveman Necevski to block the striker's shot.

The ball then bobbled onto the post and rebounded back to van Dijk whose sliding effort found its way into Necevski's hands.

With 10 minutes remaining substitute Zenon Caravella could have found the winner after beating Sydney defender Pascal Bosschaart to Ramsay's dipping cross but Necevski again reigned supreme with another fine stop.

The Reds were left to rue the missed opportunity seconds later as Sydney streamed forward from Necevski's throw and found young gun Mallia who calmly shifted past three Reds defenders before striking a well-timed left-footed shot into the far corner beyond Galekovic to snatch the win for the Sky Blues.

Adelaide United 1 (Barbiero 55)
Sydney FC 2 (Chianese 45, Mallia 80)
8,259 at Hindmarsh Stadium