Perth Glory returned to the top of the Hyundai A-League table after holding Melbourne Victory to a 1-1 draw in an ill-tempered but compelling contest at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
Hours after being deposed by Wellington Phoenix, Kenny Lowe's men responded by taking the lead away to another of the title-challengers courtesy of Andy Keogh, only for Daniel Georgievski's equaliser to deny the visitors all three points.
A share of the spoils was still enough for the Western Australian side to regain first place, while Victory remain four points back in fourth.
It was a minor miracle referee Kris Griffiths-Jones brandished only one red card - shown to Mitch Nichols for a second bookable offence in injury time - after a match that saw challenge after reckless challenge go flying in, while dissent and invective was hurled at the officials from players, coaches and supporters alike.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Unfortunately we couldn’t get the win tonight but we’re still in the title race, so we’ll keep going. We tried to do what we do best, things didn’t go our way tonight but at least we got a point." – Victory defender Daniel Georgievski
"We’ve been grinding out results even though we haven’t been playing as well as we had been but we got a good point here today against a very good victory team." – Glory striker Andy Keogh
0-1 (Andy Keogh, 43')
Michael Thwaite picked out Keogh with a well-weighted diagonal pass from outside the area, releasing the striker in behind the Victory backline as they pushed up in an attempt to catch the Irishman offside.
With Nathan Coe helpless, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers striker was free to hit the back of the net from close range, Mark Milligan's desperate attempt to clear it off the line counting for nothing.
On closer inspection Keogh appeared to be marginally offside, but inconclusive replays shown on the big screen served only to enrage the home fans, as Victory's players, fuming at the perceived injustice, confronted the referee's assistant.
In an ugly aftermath to the contentious incident, Victory assistant coach Jean-Paul de Marigny appeared to shove the fourth official.
1-1 (Daniel Georgievski 64')
With Victory pressing hard for an equaliser, Carl Valeri found Fahid Ben Khalfallah on the edge of the box and the Tunisia international in turn fed Georgievski. The fullback, arriving in the area down the left, opened his body up and picked out the far corner of the net with his right foot.
In the 72nd minute Valeri burst into the area and crossed the ball to the back post, where Ben Khalfallah headed wide with Danny Vukovic beaten.
Then, with barely four minutes to go, Kosta Barbarouses swung in an inviting ball to the top of the six-yard box, but a despairing Besart Berisha was unable to reach it.
Having only just regained the services of one centre-back in Matthieu Delpierre, Victory will hoping they haven't lost the other, Nick Ansell limping off in the closing exchanges. Glory took off Daniel De Silva and Rostyn Griffiths, the latter in particular looked to be struggling.
THE FINAL WORD
Glory will host a mouth-watering top two showdown with Wellington Phoenix next Saturday, while Victory are away to Western Sydney Wanderers a night earlier. There's barely room to breathe at the top, making for a nail-biting run in to the finals.
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Geria (Mahazi 92'), Ansell (Broxham 85'), Delpierre, Georgievski, Valeri, Milligan, Barbarouses, Finkler, Ben Khalfallah, Berisha.
Perth Glory: Vukovic, Risdon, Djulbic, Thwaite, Jamieson, Griffiths (Zadkovich 68'), De Silva (Harold 50'), Marinkovic, Nichols, Paljic (Maclaren 80'), Keogh.
Scorers: Keogh (43'), Georgievski (64').
Red cards: Nichols (92')
Yellow cards: Nichols (34, 90+2'), Ben Khalfallah (45'), Djulbic (45+1'), De Silva (48'), Thwaite (57') Griffiths (65'), Risdon (65), Harold (87').
Conditions: 22 degrees, dry.
Attendance: 22,525 @ AAMI Park.