Glen Moss saved a Roy Krishna penalty in the 88th minute to keep the Finals Series flame flickering for Newcastle Jets as a pulsating clash with Wellington Phoenix ended 1-1.
Ben Kantarovski’s trip on Louis Fenton afforded Krishna the chance to send Mark Rudan’s men 11 points clear in sixth, but the Fijian’s failure to convert at McDonald Jones Stadium means the Jets remain an outside chance of making up the gap across the final third of the season.
David Williams had earlier cancelled out Ronny Vargas’ sublime first-half opener in a thrilling contest that saw Oliver Sail, deputising for the unwell Filip Kurto, match Moss in producing a string of superb saves.
WATCH FOR FREE: How to watch the Hyundai A-League LIVE and FREE
Desperate for three points to enhance their top-six ambitions, Newcastle received an early let-off when the rebound from Mandi’s stinging shot into the left upright was turned over the crossbar at point-blank range by Louis Fenton.
Emotions were running hot amid a frenetic start with four players booked during the opening half-hour, after which ex-New Zealand international Moss succeeded in tipping a clever Williams header against the near post.
The save proved crucial as Vargas broke the deadlock in glorious fashion two minutes later, the Venezuelan receiving Daniel Georgievski’s pass in the box, twisting away from multiple markers and rifling past Sail – a late inclusion – for his first goal in the Hunter.
Vargas should have doubled his team’s advantage soon after the interval but, left completely free in the penalty area, wastefully headed wide from Dimitri Petratos’ inch-perfect delivery.
And the hosts were made to rue the miss when Williams punished some sleepy defending by guiding Fenton’s squared pass into the bottom-left corner in the 58th minute.
The action remained relentless as Newcastle stepped up their efforts to reclaim the lead, Roy O’Donovan side-footing one opportunity into the post and Georgievski heading another against the bar.
Sail, in his sixth Hyundai A-League appearance, made several excellent saves either side of those chances but it was the Kiwi outfit that should have snatched all three points through Krishna at the end of normal time, only for Moss’ outstretched boot to deny his former employers a precious victory.
Relive the action as it unfolded in our LIVE BLOG below!