Wellington Phoenix have a lifeline in their A-League finals hunt after Tomer Hemed rescued a late point in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Premiership frontrunners Melbourne City.
Phoenix looked set for a ninth defeat of the campaign - one that would have surely dealt a crucial blow to their top six ambitions - when Jamie Maclaren curled in a gorgeous free kick on 81 minutes to give the hosts a 2-1 lead.
Ufuk Talay's side had squandered a first half advantage after Hemed converted from the spot following Ben Garrucio's foul on Louis Fenton, with Naoki Tsubaki on hand to slide in an equaliser at the near post on 58 minutes.
Maclaren's splendid late free kick had City poised to re-establish an 11-point buffer atop the A-League summit and all but banish Phoenix from the finals hunt.
But Hemed proved his worth to Wellington by conjuring a clever striker's finish two minutes from the 90, getting an outstretched toe to David Ball's delivery and looping it over City keeper Tom Glover.
Connor Metcalfe rattled the post in injury time on an afternoon the Australian starlet was handed the captain's armband by Kisnorbo, with Wellington leaving AAMI Park with their top six hopes just about alive.
Talay's side would still likely need to win all four of their remaining matches to qualify for the finals series. They are currently in eight position, three points behind Brisbane Roar, who have two games in hand and play fourth-placed Adelaide United tonight (Sunday).
A tetchy opening half hour saw both sides struggle to mount sights at goal, with a much-changed City side under par and Wellington biding their time to strike.
It came when Garrucio clipped Fenton in the 35th minute, leaving Hemed to coolly brush home the resulting spot kick with conviction.
Wellington could very well have doubled their lead within seconds of the restart: Hemed won the ball back and played it to Ball but the Englishman drew a very important stop from Glover to prevent the visitors from establishing a two goal buffer.
Talay's side received another gilt-edged chance to double their lead. Ball released Ben Waine on goal, who tipped it ahead of the onrushing Glover and attempted to bend it past the retreating City keeper but Rostyn Griffiths headed the ball away from danger and off the line.
The Premiership frontrunners the began to stir, and when Laws was robbed by Tilio for Tsubaki's maiden effort in A-League football, it was game on.
Rested for the J-League front-man, Maclaren stepped off the bench to net a sublime free kick past the helpless Oliver Sail but there was one final twist in the tale when Hemed latched on to David Ball's cross to give Wellington's season a lifeline, and ensure City must rally again to tighten their grip on the Premiers Plate.
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