The Mariners were heavily criticised for their performance last week but they responded with a 1-0 win over the in-form Sky Blues at Bluetongue Stadium
A clever back-heel from the 36-year-old in the 26th minute ultimately proved the difference between the two sides.
The 2012/13 Golden Boot winner finished off a slick passing move started after the Mariners regathered possession following a Joshua Rose shot on goal.
A Michael McGlinchey pass to Rose set up the defender to find McBreen whose neat finish gave the home side a lead which they never relinquished.
Searching for a second win at home this season, the home side elevated McBreen, Nick Montgomery and Marcel Seip to the stating XI.
For Frank Farina's side, who were searching for a club record fifth-straight win, Ranko Despotovic earned a starting spot after his terrific early form for the Sky Blues and Pedj Bojic returned from suspension.
Former Mariner Bojic was involved early chipping in a ball from the right which the Mariners managed to scramble away after three minutes.
The home side pushed the envelope with both Rose and Mitchell Duke having good early opportunities ruled out due to offside.
A Marcos Flores free kick from almost in front was headed on by Duke after 20 minutes but was easily saved by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic
McBreen's 26th-minute finish broke a home goal drought covering two games for the Mariners who had failed to score against Melbourne Victory and the Brisbane Roar recently.
After chances for the visitors to Bojic and Serbian Despotovic, Phil Moss' charges should have doubled their lead just before the interval after McBreen fluffed a header from another Rose cross.
The veteran striker put the easy attempt straight into the ground instead of the net at the Northern End.
Having dominated first-half possession with 63 percent of the ball, the home side continued to turn the screws in the second period as both sides put in some full-blooded tackles - one of which on Sydney's Matthew Jurman earned Seip a yellow card.
Despite the lack of clear cut chances, the Mariners still looked in control taking into account an improved effort from Sydney FC in the second half.
Kiwi international McGlinchey missed a chance to get a shot on target in the 74th minute as he jinked into the penalty area before he had his progress halted by Ali Abbas.
Five minutes later, Mariners substitute Matt Simon failed to pass Janjetovic when the striker couldn't quite find the angle after fellow replacement Mile Sterjovski's pass.
Sydney substitute Terry McFlynn drove a shot from range which was neatly saved by Mariners shot-stopper Liam Reddy.
Moments after an 87th-minute penalty shout following a Simon run, McFlynn appeared lucky to stay on the park - having picked up a booking earlier - when replays showed he handled the ball just outside the penalty area as the Mariners sought a clincher.
The home side continued to pressure late on without reward, but the three points were safe.
Mariners playmaker Flores suffered a left ankle injury in the 60th minute of play and continued for a further 11 minutes before leaving the field of play.
The Argentinean will be monitored ahead of the victors' trip to Adelaide next weekend.