A cool-headed 77th-minute goal from Archie Thompson helped Melbourne Victory escape with a 2-2 draw against Adelaide United at a packed-out Coopers Stadium on Saturday night.
The Reds started well against a scrambling Victory defence but it was the visitors who struck first through in-form Fahid Ben Khalfallah with Melbourne's first genuine opportunity in the ninth minute.
Pablo Sanchez equalised just prior to half-time before the Reds went ahead when Dylan McGowan converted a fortuitous header after James Jeggo knocked the ball across goal after coming back from outside the field of play.
But United's lead was short-lived as long-timer Adelaide tormentor Thompson scored three minutes later to ensure a split of the points between the two arch rivals.
0-1 Khalfallah (9')
Completely against the trend of play, Gui Finkler provided a terrific assist to Khalfallah who, with Melbourne's first attacking foray, cracked a stinging screamer from the edge of the area past the diving Eugene Galekovic.
1-1 Sanchez (43')
Following a quick throw-in, Sergio Cirio knocked a high chipped cross to the back post where Sanchez soared above towering Victory centre back Matthieu Delpierre and nodded home the equaliser from close range.
2-1 McGowan (74')
Coe produced a ripping save but with Adelaide keeping the ball alive, he was unable to repeat his effort seconds later as McGowan headed the ball home with a slight deflection off substitute Leigh Broxham to give the Reds the lead.
2-2 Thompson (77')
Playmaker Finkler provided a wonderful pass to Archie Thompson who, on the blind side of Tarek Elrich, danced around Galekovic and rolled it past the Adelaide custodian into the back of the net.
WHAT THEY SAID
"These games are always fast and frantic and this was no different. With the control we had in the first half we’re a little bit disappointed not to take three points. Everyone knows we can play good football, I think a better statement will be when we start winning games when we’re on top. We’d like to make a statement next week against Newcastle by putting a few away and hopefully moving up the league." – Reds defender Dylan McGowan
"We knew tonight was obviously going to be a tough match. We had to be compact and we had to take our chances when they came. It was a great atmosphere tonight and a lot of tough challenges. We were happy with the point but obviously we would have liked to win." – Victory striker Archie Thompson
Thompson's leveller proved the difference but it almost wasn't so.
Coe's brilliance in goal thwarted the Reds for much of the night but no more importantly than his qucik-reflexed ankle save of Jimmy Jeggo's attempted 84th-minute match-winner.
Given the home side's on-field edge for most of the match, it was a crucial stop for Melbourne.
The high-quality absorbing, thrill-a-minute spectacle aside, the atmosphere, colour and voice of the crowd was a major highlight in the #EraceRacism blockbuster.
The 16,077 attendance was the third-largest crowd in an A-League match at Hindmarsh and all spectators got their money's worth.
OPTA DAYA KEY STATS
Despite sharing the spoils, the Reds had all the play with significant advantages in total shots (12-4) passes (425-254), passing accuracy (78.4%-62.6%), corners (14-0) and crosses (34-2).
But Victory made considerably more of their fewer opportunities, the key stat being that of the scoresheet.
THE FINAL WORD
Victory will make a renewed push for top spot when they host the Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park on Friday night, albeit will without the services of a number of players on international duties.
Adelaide travel away to tackle the improved Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (c), Sanchez, Boogaard, McGowan, Sanchez (Palanca 69'), Isaias, Cirio, Carrusca, Djite (Goodwin 82'), Jeggo, Elrich
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Geria (Broxham 45'), Ansell, Milligan (c), Finkler, Berisha (Pain 89'), Thompson, Khalfallah (Mahazi 90'+3), Georgievski, Delpierre, Valeri
Scorers: Khalfallah (9'), Sanchez (43'), McGowan (74'), Thompson (77')
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Elrich (25'), Milligan (45'+2), McGowan (81'), Marrone (87')
Conditions: 24°C, clear