Newcastle Jets have kept themselves in the finals race with a 1-1 draw in wet conditions against Sydney FC. The Jets grabbed a late leveler through Sasho Petrovski after Bruno Cazarine put the Sky Blues ahead in the 76th minute with a neat finish.
The point allowed Newcastle to mathematically stay in the hunt as they now sit six points behind sixth-placed Wellington Phoenix with two games remaining against Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners.
Although Sydney remain undefeated in six matches, their already slim hopes of pushing into the top six were ended as they are now eight points out of the race and unable to defend their title.
Venue: EnergyAustralia Stadium, Newcastle Crowd: approx. 5,000 Referee: Peter Green Yellow cards:NJ - Nikolai Topor-Stanley 89', Tarek Elrich 90+1' SYD - Juho Makela 73'
Newcastle began brightly and were looking the more dangerous of the two sides in very difficult conditions at EnergyAustralia Stadium as the rain and wind wreaked havoc in the early stages.
Jets forward Jeremy Brockie missed a golden opportunity in about the 14th minute when a cross from the left evaded Sydney keeper Ivan Necevski but the New Zealand international was wrong-footed as he attempted to put the ball into the back of the net.
The weather was bringing the quality of the contest down with neither side able to get a clear chance on goal after Brockie's blunder as time elapsed in the opening half, however, the Jets were thwarted by the crossbar in the 42nd minute after Tarek Elrich's attempt was deflected goalward by Labinot Haliti but could not get past the woodwork.
Sydney had a great double chance early in the second half when Juho Makela's header was stopped by Jets keeper Ben Kennedy before Hiro Moriyasu's follow-up was deflected out by the Jets defence.
Haliti's 55th minute header cannoned into an unsuspecting Terry McFlynn on the line as the Jets again went close to an opener in a match which looked destined to finish 0-0.
Nick Carle struck goalward in the 62nd minute, his shot stinging the palms of Kennedy, before Haliti headed agonisingly close down the other end about six minutes later as the opportunities continued to come but the inefficiency from both sides became apparent.
With about 15 minutes left, Sydney skipper McFlynn played a nice ball towards an advancing Bruno Cazarine but young Jets defender Sam Gallaway intervened to knock the ball to safety.
GOAL But the Brazilian striker was able to break the deadlock in the 76th minute when he received the ball in the area from Scott Jamieson's throw-in, out-muscling Gallaway, before turning and putting a perfect shot past Kennedy for his third in three games and ninth of the season.
GOAL The Jets then spoiled the Sky Blues party when Jobe Wheelhouse played a long, speculative free-kick into the mixer which Nikolai Topor-Stanley headed into the path of substitute Sasho Petrovski who sent it home with his knee home from close range to make it 1-1.
In the dying moments, Topor-Stanley could have enhanced the finals hopes of his club when Petrovski's diving header bounced off Necevski and into the path of the central defender but he was unable to knock home from inches out to keep the game all tied up at the final whistle.
NJ Ben Kennedy (gk), Adam D'Apuzzo, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Sam Gallaway, Tarek Elrich, Jobe Wheelhouse, Ali Abbas (Virgili 67'), Mario Simic, Jeremy Brockie (Petrovski 67'), Labinot Haliti (Pepper 84'), Marko Jesic
Subs - Matthew Nash (gk), Sasho Petrovski (67'), James Virgili (67'), Jacob Pepper (84')
SYD Ivan Necevski (gk), Byun Sung-Hwan, Stephan Keller, Matthew Jurman, Scott Jamieson, Stuart Musialik, Nick Carle (Ryall 83'), Hiro Moriyasu (Cole 74'), Terry McFlynn, Dimitri Petratos (Makela 44'), Bruno Cazarine
Subs - Dylan Mitchell (gk), Juho Makela (44'), Shannon Cole (74'), Seb Ryall (83')