Shane Smeltz's incredible four-goal haul helped Perth Glory take a huge step towards ensuring third spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder by beating Melbourne Victory.
Shane Smeltz's incredible four-goal haul helped Perth Glory take a huge step towards ensuring third spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder by beating Melbourne Victory 4-2 on Saturday night.
Smeltz, who also became the A-League's highest all-time goal-scorer with his magnificent performance, helped the injury-depleted Glory twice come back from one down to wrap up the three points at nib Stadium.
The New Zealand striker scored once before half-time and three more in an 18 minute spell after the break to give Perth a three point buffer over Wellington for third spot.
The Glory will finish third, which ensures home field advantage until the preliminary final, unless the Phoenix beat league leaders Central Coast by at least three goals on Sunday.
It looked like Perth would have to face a harder road through the finals though when Carlos Hernandez gave Victory a 22nd minute lead and even when Mark Milligan restored their advantage in first half stoppage time.
But costly defensive lapses, particularly in the second half, proved Melbourne's downfall as they finished off a massively disappointing campaign in eighth spot with just 29 points.
Perth's victory was soured by a suspected hamstring tweak which saw Steven McGarry taken off at half-time, adding him to an injured list that already includes Jacob Burns, Bas van den Brink, Liam Miller and Josh Mitchell.
But Scott Neville did make a successful return from a knee injury which had kept him out since October, while Melbourne retained a similar side to the one which beat Wellington 3-0 a week earlier.
The Victory went ahead after just 22 minutes when Fabio's delightful ball played in Hernandez and he slotted it under Danny Vukovic, but the hosts hit back just a minute later when a horrible defensive mix-up allowed Smeltz to head in an Andrezinho cross.
Melbourne threatened for much of the opening period and eventually did get their lead back in stoppage time when Fabio's long-range shot fell fortunately to Milligan and the defender tapped in from close range.
Again Victory couldn't hold onto their advantage for any extended period though, with an unnecessary foul in a dangerous position gifting Perth a 48th minute opportunity they made count when Shane Smeltz flicked Andrezinho's free kick past Velaphi.
And Glory went ahead in the 62nd minute after Milligan foolishly dragged down Billy Mehmet in the box and Smeltz converted the spot-kick for his hat-trick.
Jim Magilton's men should have been back in the game with 16 minutes left but Hernandez woefully shot over with Danny Vukovic out of position and there was no way back for Victory.
Perth's opponent in their home elimination final next week will be determined by Sunday's game, with Newcastle, Melbourne Heart and Sydney their possible adversaries.
Perth Glory 4 (Smeltz 23, 48, 62, 66) Melbourne Victory 2 (Hernandez 22, Milligan 45) Crowd: 9,724 at nib Stadium
Hyundai Motor Company Australia and Perth Glory were delighted to lend a helping hand to Western Knights Soccer Club with a grant of $5,000 as part of the Hyundai Goals for Grassroots program. For more information on the program, visit here