Gold Coast United have moved off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League table after an 88th-minute penalty gave them a remarkable 1-0 victory in a spiteful Boxing Day clash with rivals Brisbane Roar at Skilled Park.

The match looked set to end in a draw, but referee Kris Griffiths-Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after a trip on lively youngster Ben Halloran by Roar winger Rocky Visconte.

United substitute, dead-ball specialist Daniel Severino, stepped up to convert and made no mistake with the penalty, giving them their first triumph over their local rivals in two years.

It was no less than the Coast deserved after a performance that was both disciplined in defence and enterprising in attack, with boom youngster Halloran awarded man-of-the-match honours.

The win lifts them into ninth place, one point ahead of Adelaide - but importantly they are now unbeaten in three games and haven't conceded in the past 270 minutes of football, an equal club record streak.

In doing so, they consigned the third-placed Roar to a fifth consecutive defeat, which is now the worst in Brisbane's history - and even worse, they remain six points adrift of top club Central Coast, who have played a game less.

Few would have expected such a remarkable downturn in form given exactly one month ago the men in orange were the toast of Australian sport with their 36-match undefeated streak - but it's now a stark reality for Ange Postecoglou and his men.

Previous M1 derbies have proven to be heated, enthralling affairs - and this one was no different, with Griffiths-Jones dishing out a total of nine yellow cards.

But an early hamstring injury to Gold Coast striker Dylan Macallister turned Monday's match into an intriguing tactical battle as well.

The towering target man copped a knock after a collision with Mohamed Adnan and was withdrawn in the 13th minute, forcing coach Miron Bleiberg into a significant reshuffle.

Macallister's replacement, Dylan McGowan, moved to the right side of a peculiar and flexible five-man defence with James Brown pushing forward to partner Maceo Rigters in attack.

Whatever the system, it worked - United were disciplined and organised in defence, with the Roar rarely penetrating despite holding 75 percent possession in the first half.

While the reigning league champions regained skipper Matt Smith from injury, they were without key attacking pair Thomas Broich and Henrique for the fourth consecutive match.

Their best chance came in the 38th minute when Mitch Nichols overran a Shane Steffanutto cutback, with his scuffed shot making for an easy save for custodian Jerrad Tyson.

Though he was rarely called upon in the first half, Tyson did enough to suggest Gold Coast won't lose too much in goal over the next two months despite a long-term injury to first-choice shotstopper Glen Moss.

The Sunshine Coast product was tested as the second half opened at breakneck speed, saving a sizzling Kofi Danning drive but spilling the ball with Albanian marksman Besart Berisha lurking.

Fortunately, he scooped it up in time to save his blushes - and from there, his side took the ascendancy and threw everything at the Roar.

United hit the woodwork twice in five minutes through Halloran and Rigters as the hosts began to assert control on the game.

To their credit, Gold Coast never yielded in their search for a goal - and eventually, that late slice of fortune gave Gold Coast, and Severino, a Boxing Day to remember.

Gold Coast United 1 (Severino 88)
Brisbane Roar 0