Djulbic sends GCU through

Gold Coast United have exorcised their finals demons of last season, with a last-gasp Dino Djulbic header bundling Melbourne Victory out of the championship race with a stunning 1-0 win in sweltering conditions at Skilled Park on Sunday afternoon.

Gold Coast United have exorcised their finals demons of last season, with a last-gasp Dino Djulbic header bundling Melbourne Victory out of the championship race with a stunning 1-0 win in sweltering conditions at Skilled Park on Sunday afternoon.

With a tense affair between the two sides looking destined for extra time, defensive lynchpin Djulbic rose to meet a perfect corner from German import Peter Perchtold and the big man tucked his header away brilliantly into the top left-hand corner of the net, stunning a Victory side that were, in an instant, punished for their wastefulness.

The triumph gave Miron Bleiberg's men their first ever finals win and erased the memories of last season's penalty loss at home to the Newcastle Jets in the opening week of knockout action - but it could have been an entirely different story had the visitors made the most of their chances.

Melbourne Victory were mobile and looking dangerous in a tense first half and by just the sixth minute, Victory had already demanded two top-drawer saves from former gloveman Glen Moss - the first from Danny Allsopp, then Qantas Socceroo Robbie Kruse after the youngster brilliantly turned Perchtold.

But United's strikeforce looked up for the occasion as well, with Djite linking up well with Tahj Minniecon, threading him through on goal but he wrongfooted his shot and Victory 'keeper Michael Petkovic cleaned up easily.

As the match settled, Melbourne looked the more inventive in attack but United went closest to taking the lead in the 29th minute, after a typically mazy run through the heart of the Victory defence from Adama Traore.

The Ivorian unleashed Minniecon, who wheeled onto his right foot but his shot from the top of the box whizzed just inches high of the target.

But for all the movement of Ernie Merrick's men, they couldn't break down a stubborn United and the match remained scoreless at the break.

Gold Coast resumed with intent but just as Traore began to fire, the knee niggle he sustained in the opening half became too much and he was withdrawn for returning marksman Joel Porter - and the change nearly bore instant fruit.

Porter almost broke the deadlock at 55 minutes, latching onto a cross from Perchtold with a first-time volley on his non-preferred right foot that rattled the crossbar.

United continued to assert control on the game, with a Zenon Caravella shot five minutes later stinging the palms of Petkovic, and in the 78th minute a goalmouth scramble nearly gave them the edge - but Victory captain Adrian Leijer saved the day with a backheel clearance on the line.

Both sides began to trade blows, with substitute Archie Thompson demanding a sharp reaction save from Glen Moss at one end before Smeltz sent another shot over the top at the other.

Gold Coast continued the search for an opener, with Minniecon firing off a stunning long-range effort that Petkovic could only paw away - but a Carlos Hernandez free kick from even deeper smashed into the crossbar as the match geared up for a dramatic finish.

With just five minutes left, some more Hernandez magic split the United rearguard open for Danny Allsopp but the burly striker spurned what was, until then, the best chance of the game from close range - and it came back to burn him.

Just as extra time looked a certainty, Djulbic rose for that match-winning header to send the small but vocal home crowd into raptures and United through to a tantalising matchup with Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium next Sunday.

Gold Coast United 1 (Djulbic 90+1') Melbourne Victory 0 Crowd: 3281 at Skilled Park, Robina