Two extraordinary Marco Rojas goals saved Melbourne Victory from themselves, as they beat a spirited Newcastle Jets 3-2 at AAMI Park to close in on the A-League top two.
The Victory squandered a two-goal lead and total first-half dominance as the Jets fought back to level at 2-2 with 17 minutes left.
But just 60 seconds after Emile Heskey’s equaliser, New Zealander Rojas produced a goal of freakish skill, controlling a ball which rebounded towards him in the box, spinning and volleying for a winner befitting a pulsating match.
After league leaders Central Coast and second-placed Adelaide United both lost this week, the Victory have now climbed to outright third – just two points adrift of the Reds.
The Victory looked in total control going into halftime, with a first 45 minutes oozing with magic and menace which would have made both the Mariners and Reds as uncomfortable as it did the Jets.
Rojas, who had been dangerous on the left, launched a stunning strike on 33 minutes for the opener.
His unstoppable 20-metre strike with the outside of his right foot bent away from Newcastle goalkeeper Mark Birighitti at warp speed to find the net.
Rojas then teamed with the excellent Billy Celeski to present Archie Thompson an easy finish for Victory’s second right on halftime.
But Victory’s first half of magic was followed by a second half of illusion.
The Jets kept working hard, and winger James Virgili forced Victory’s makeshift centre-half Leigh Broxham – outstanding all night – to make a vital clearance off the line early in the second half.
Then skipper Ruben Zadkovich belted a 25-metre strike past Victory keeper Nathan Coe in the 64th minute to give the Jets a lift.
When Heskey took advantage of some dithering Victory defence on 73 minutes, the Jets were back in business, before Rojas donned his cape.
Newcastle had a great chance to equalise with just two minutes left, but Coe made a superb point-blank save from substitute Adam Taggart’s shot.