For a game that very nearly didn’t happen, this was a minor classic.
The topline is that Western Sydney Wanderers’ unbeaten record remains after a late Marcus Antonsson header stole a 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar, though that doesn’t come close to covering it.
The match began an hour late after a storm above Suncorp Stadium saw the start postponed and the game, when it started, played on a sodden, heavy pitch.
That did nothing to deter a Roar side that have quickly become one of the best to watch in the A-League under Ross Aloisi, with the hosts racing into a rapid 2-0 lead through Nikola Mileusnic and Jack Hingert.
They dominated the game, both through incisive passing and a suffocating press, with Wanderers struggling to get out of their half at all.
The visitors also lost captain and defensive lynchpin Marcelo to an injury, forcing a rapid reshuffle amid waves of Roar pressure.
3-0 would have put the game beyond doubt, but after Brisbane spurned multiple chances, Western Sydney were able to take advantage.
That came within 30 seconds of the resumption from Nicolas Milanovic, who fired in from the edge of the box.
Again, the Roar could have run up the score yet further as they created opening after opening, but as the game wore on, the equaliser felt increasingly likely. Antonsson, who had been the most likely all night, was the man to find it.
Even after that drama, there was time for more. Shae Cahill, son of Tim, made his debut and very nearly won it but for a Lawrence Thomas wonder save, before Rylan Brownlie, another Brisbane youngster, had a goal wiped out for offside.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the three points because we created enough chances to score six goals,” said Aloisi.
“In saying that, the pleasing thing is that we’re creating those chances and we’re trying to play football. We came up against a good side and I’m trying to think of how many big saves Macklin Freke made. I know Thomas made three or four.
“It’s pleasing to create those chances but I really would like the players to finish those off.”
Wanderers coach Marko Rudan couldn’t have been prouder of his charges.
“The way we came back in the second half was remarkable,” said Marko Rudan. “It’s never easy against a good outfit, you’re 2-0 down and your captain’s gone off.
“I thought it was a great effort from the players. We needed a reaction right from the outset (of the second half) and we need to be on the front foot and get that first shot on goal. It ended up doing in and then you’ve got a sniff.
“We wanted to keep going and we could have got something in the end, but then so could they. That second half performance is going to be a reference point for the rest of the season.”
The opener could not have been more simple. It was a straight ball from Burke-Gilroy that got Mileusnic free behind Jack Clisby, and finished at near post.
The same man got free just moments later and this time and picked out Hingert to finish.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic. Lachie Brook had an effort from distance tipped behind by Macklin Freke and, from the corner, Marcelo nodded wide.
It would be the centre half and captain’s last involvement, however, as he limped out and, without him, the defence looked even shakier. Waddingham was unlucky not to get the break of the ball after Jez Lofthouse’s cross, while Henry Hore flashed a shot wide.
Western Sydney needed the break, and when they came out after it, looked like a different animal.
The vistors closed the gap almost immediately, with Milanovic smartly controlling a bouncing ball on the edge of the box before slamming past Freke.
It should have been pegged back immediately. Mileusnic was released by Jay O’Shea and twice evaded keeper Laurence Thomas, but when the time came to shoot, could only smash a shot off Clisby’s back.
That dogged defending was needed more and more. Lofthouse, Taras Gomulka and Hore again were all denied by last ditch blocks.
With every miss, Western Sydney took hope and, as the Roar dropped back to hold on, a chance inevitably came.
For the Roar, it will haunt them all weak: substitute Marcus Younis crossed under next-to-no pressure, from which Antonsson was able to nod home.
There was drama yet to come. Cahill’s shot and Brownlie’s late offside goal might have given the game a positive result, but instead, the draw was perhaps fair.