Showing the resiliency it will need to make a competitive run in the playoffs, the Zodiac rallied from a two-goal first-half deficit Thursday at the Santa Ana Bowl.
The payoff, a 3-2 shootout victory over El Paso in an A-League game, came before an announced crowd of 1,604.
The Zodiac (11-7-2), now 3-2 in shootouts, moved into second place in the Pacific Division with 46 points, one point ahead of Seattle.
It was the Zodiac's third consecutive victory, and El Paso's fifth loss in a row.
The Zodiac have won three of four games against the Patriots, who will be the Zodiac's next home opponent on Aug. 11.
In the meantime, the Zodiac plays three road games, two against teams that rank ahead of it in the Western Conference playoff race, Minnesota (53 points) and San Diego (66 points).
El Paso (7-12-0, 32 points), 10th in the Western Conference, desperately needed a victory to remain in the eight-team playoff hunt.
The Patriots were in their first shootout of the season, and it showed. The Zodiac scored four times, El Paso twice. The clincher came from Steve Patterson, the A-League's sixth-leading scorer.
Patterson, shooting fourth, sidestepped goalkeeper Alfredo Estrada (five saves), then tapped in.
"The goalkeeper came out real fast, and I just went around him," Patterson said. "You have to stay composed on those. I knew if I put it away, it would end the game."
Goalkeeper Mike Littman (six saves) blocked one shootout attempt, and the other went high.
"Our guys showed a lot of heart and desire," Littman said. "Coming back from a 2-0 deficit in this league is a hard thing to do."
Michael Griego scored two unassisted goals, one minute apart, midway in the first half to stake the Patriots to their lead. Kenny Hesse assisted on Eddie Soto's header five minutes later to make it 2-1.
The Zodiac tied the score, 2-2, in the 67th minute as replacement Jason Boyce scored from 10 yards. Boyce, a Corona del Mar High graduate, entered in the 57th minute for Seth George, who was on loan from the Galaxy for the first time. Boyce took Eddie Soto's pass, attacked from the left side and punched the ball past Estrada as he came out to challenge.
The game was the final one for midfielder Mario Sanchez, who is leaving the team to become an assistant coach at Fresno State. Sanchez entered the game in the 59th minute.