Scott McDonald and Jay O'Shea both bagged their first goals in orange as Brisbane Roar notched an impressive 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.
The Wanderers arrived in Queensland intent on stealing Brisbane's place in the top six, but two first-half goals to McDonald and an O'Shea penalty ensured the hosts took all three points and strengthened their grasp on a Finals Series spot.
It took Brisbane just three minutes to pick Western Sydney apart when McDonald pounced on a poorly defended set piece to roll a close-range strike into the net to open the scoring.
The Red and Black seemed flat for the entirety of the first half while their opponents bubbled with energy, taking shot after shot at Daniel Lopar in a dominant opening 45 minutes, and they eventually capitalised on their ascendancy when McDonald scored a second with a simple tap-in at the back post.
The Wanderers crafted chances through Simon Cox and captain Mitch Duke but were otherwise completely outplayed in a first half which could have had a third Brisbane goal, if not for the post which kept O'Shea's late free kick at bay.
Brisbane looked to have emerged from the sheds intent on strengthening their grip on the contest but less than ten minutes after the restart Duke made things interesting with a brilliant solo goal which he tucked into the bottom left corner.
The Wanderers response after pegging one back was admirable as they pushed hard for an equaliser, but a mistake from Dylan McGowan led to a Brisbane fast break which resulted in Brad Inman drawing a penalty from Matt Jurman for a rash challenge in the box.
O'Shea stepped up to slot his maiden Hyundai A-League goal from the spot and just like that the hosts regained their two-goal advantage.
Brisbane's third goal ultimately ended Western Sydney's mini-resurgence, as they navigated the final 20 minutes of play with their advantage intact to secure a vital three points and firmly entrench themselves in the Finals Series conversation.
McDonald poaches an early Roar goal
They had only scored three first-half goals for the season before taking on the Wanderers, but it took Brisbane just three minutes to go in front after McDonald pounced on a goal-mouth scrap to fire the hosts ahead.
O'Shea's delivery into the box challenged the Wanderers' defence as his cross ricocheted off Scott Neville's body and dropped in front of the penalty spot; a number of bodies hurled themselves towards the ball but McDonald was positioned best to wheel around and tuck the ball under Lopar and into the back of the net.
McDonald strikes again as Roar establish first-half stronghold
Brisbane dominated a languid Wanderers outfit throughout the first half and McDonald proved to be the main beneficiary of that when he scored his second goal from close range after 37 minutes.
The Australian striker's celebrations were subdued after his close range finish from a Macaulay Gillesphey cross was chalked offside, but VAR intervened after finding McDonald well onside at the back post as Brisbane opened a two-goal lead.
O'Shea rattles the post with venomous free-kick
O'Shea, for all his excellence, has struggled to buy a goal in Brisbane colours up until tonight and that trend continued when his near-perfect free-kick from outside the box beat Lopar but thundered off the post and away to safety.
Duke goes alone to bring Wanderers back into the fight
After receiving the ball just beyond the halfway mark, Duke sized up the space ahead of him and charged toward goal.
He squared up Tom Aldred and cut onto his right foot inside the box, fooling Jamie Young in Brisbane's goal by sending his low strike across his body toward the near post where it nestled into the bottom left corner, breathing life back into the contest.
O'Shea breaks Hyundai A-League duck to make it 3-1
As the Wanderers pushed for a leveller Aiden O'Neill made a crucial interception in midfield which gave Inman a clear run at Jurman tracking back into the box.
Inman took the ball onto his left and got ready to shoot but Jurman cut him down before he got the chance, conceding a penalty and earning a yellow card for his troubles.
O'Shea grabbed the ball and stepped up to the spot, then placed the ball in the back of the net for the first time after an extended wait for his maiden Roar goal to repair Brisbane's two-goal lead.
Brisbane Roar v Central Coast Mariners
Friday, 13 March
Kick off: 6.30pm local, 7.30pm AEDT
Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 14 March
Kick off: 7.30pm AEDT
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