John Aloisi marked his first start for the club by netting in the 50th minute before Brazilian Alex Terra scored his first Heart goal 16 minutes later.
Wellington vice-captain Tim Brown pulled one back for his side with 15 minutes remaining but the Heart held on to record maximum points.
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Peter Green
Yellow cards: MH - nil
WP - Manny Muscat 45+2’
The Heart were promising early and came close to an opener in the 5th minute when Josip Skoko’s free-kick was met by a glancing Simon Colosimo header but fortunately for the Phoenix just missed the target.
Most of the play was in the Heart’s half and things were looking ominous for the visitors but it was Wellington who came closest to scoring when in the 16th minute Leo Bertos sent a cross in from the right flank where Chris Greenacre was only inches away from knocking it past Clint Bolton.
It was then that Heart had a reshuffle when young defender Brendan Hamill had to come off with what appeared to be a groin injury and Dutchman Rutger Wӧrm entered the fray, pushing Matt Thompson back to central defence.
Melbourne’s Gerald Sibon came close with his 22nd minute strike and then five minutes later Alex Terra had a good chance when he was played into a one-on-one situation with Phoenix keeper Danny Vukovic but he was forced too wide with the angle he had to shoot from being too great and he could only manage to hit the side netting.
The Heart were building towards a goal against a tired Wellington outfit but it was the visitors who finished the stronger of the two sides and had a strong chance when Nick Ward made a jinking run deep into the box but his efforts were held out by the Heart defence ahead of Wӧrm’s attempt moments before the half-time whistle.
Five minutes into the second half the Heart took the lead after a well-worked piece of play which was finished by John Aloisi. GOAL The veteran striker started the move when he held the ball up outside the area before dishing off to Gerald Sibon who played a one-two with Wayne Srhoj before squaring it up to the back post where an outstretched Aloisi bundled home much to the delight of the AAMI Park fans.
In the 56th minute, the Heart came close to a second when Skoko played a wide ball to right-back Michael Marrone who whipped a low ball from the right flank into the path of Aloisi but his shot was covered by Vukovic who was on hand to keep his side in the contest.
Melbourne were well on top and moments later definitely should have had a second when Terra’s diving header was brilliantly saved by Vukovic but somehow Aloisi slammed the ball into the crossbar from point blank range in what was a huge let off for the Phoenix.
Wellington were in desperate search of a leveller but they found themselves two goals down in the 66th minute when GOAL Sibon forced an error from Ward before Terra swept in to take possession of the ball, advanced into the area and finished with aplomb with his left foot for his first Heart goal.
GOAL The 74th minute saw the Phoenix get one back when Ifill produced a lovely cross with the outside of the boot, picking out Tim Brown who finished coolly despite pressure from the Heart defence although Dean Heffernan’s attempt at a clearance was less than impressive.
Wellington’s goal set up a tense final 15 minutes but the Heart managed to hold out for a win and move up to 7th on the table with the Phoenix remaining in 6th.
Clint Bolton (gk), Michael Marrone, Brendan Hamill (Wӧrm 19’), Simon Colosimo, Matt Thompson, Gerald Sibon, Wayne Srhoj, Alex Terra (Babalj 68’), John Aloisi, Josip Skoko (Kalmar 61’), Dean Heffernan
Subs - Peter Zois (gk), Rutger Wӧrm (19’), Eli Babalj (68’), Nick Kalmar (61’)
Danny Vukovic (gk), Manny Muscat, Tony Lochhead (Macallister 62’), Nick Ward (Daniel 72’), Tim Brown, Leo Bertos, Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre (Hearfield 55’), Jade North, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante
Subs - Mark Paston (gk), Daniel (72’), Troy Hearfield (55’), Dylan Macallister (62’)