An undermanned Newcastle Jets took a giant leap towards the finals with a crucial 3-1 victory over Melbourne City on Friday night.
Wellington's draw with Victory meant that the gap for the Jets extended to nine points, which meant this match had become a do-or-die encounter for the boys.
One of seven changes from their ACL clash on Tuesday, goalkeeper Lewis Italiano was called into real action for the first time with 13 minutes played, diving at the feet of Jamie Maclaren to deny the newly-returned striker a second goal in as many Hyundai A-League matches.
After a darting run into the box, Johnny Koutroumbis had a penalty shout waved away as the game began to even out and both sides settled into proceedings.
Jair took advantage of a loose ball at the back post to fire a stinging shot into the hands of Eugene Galekovic, which led to a curling Nick Cowburn corner which couldn’t find a Jets head.
Just a few minutes later though, it was a Jets head which opened the scoring and it was the head of the Brazillian.
A fantastic, curling cross from Johnny Koutroubmis sailed to the back post where Jair rose and fired a thumping header into the back of the net to give the Jets the advantage.
Newcastle had another good chance immediately after half-time as Nick Cowburn swung in a superb-looking free-kick, which Matt Ridenton glanced just wide.
Despite that early chance, and one from Angus Thurgate which sailed over the bar, City drew level with just ten minutes gone in the half through a Jamie Maclaren goal.
That begun a period of relative domination from City, camped in the Newcastle half with the only real chance in a near 15 minutes spent attacking a header from Riley McGree which went over the bar.
Having sat in and defended for a long period, it was a stunning counter-attack which brought the beginning of the end for the visitors.
The ball broke free and the substitute, Roy O’Donovan, went on his way, beat a defender and squared up Joey Champness – a fellow substitute – who made no mistake in pulling the Jets back into a 2-1 lead.
Minutes later it was Champness who turned provider, this time playing in O’Donovan down the right edge who coolly slotted passed Galekovic to score the Jets third and seal all three points.