Adelaide United FC guaranteed itself a home final after a 1-1 draw with the Newcastle Jets in a game that will be remembered more for its number of contentious decisions.
Adelaide United FC cannot finish any lower than fourth - guaranteeing the Reds a home final, after they played out a 1-1 draw with the Newcastle Jets in a game that will be remembered for its array of contentious officiating decisions.
In a contest full of incidents and verdicts, the most debatable of which came in the dying minutes when Reds midfielder Dario Vidosic was denied a dramatic late winner, the end result was a point each but it was not from a lack of both teams trying to claim all three.
A superb solo effort and strike from Marcelo Carrusca four minutes into the second half, the Argentine-s fifth goal of the season, cancelled out Michael Bridges- 44th minute goal which had given the Jets the edge at the break.
The draw means the Reds can no longer be caught by any teams below them, while a third and even second place finish is still a mathematical possibility with two rounds to go after this weekend-s matches.
United Coach Michael Valkanis went in with the same side that beat the Heart on Monday night, but his charges took awhile to warm into the clash as the Jets knew a win was crucial for their hopes of playing finals.
Young Newcastle defender Connor Chapman thought he had given his side an early lead when he nodded home from a corner but the referee called a foul on Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic.
If they thought they were let off the hook then, the Reds were again treading a fine line when as Adam Taggart kept the back four honest thinking on two occasions he had timed runs to perfection to beat the offside trap, but both times the linesman-s flag went up when it could also have stayed down.
Reds target man Tomi Juric-s hard work created a site on goal for Iain Ramsay on the left in the 13th minute but the winger could not repeat his goal scoring feat of Monday night as he blazed his shot high and wide.
The home side-s best chance of the half came in the 19th minute when Vidosic brought the best out of Jets and former Reds keeper Mark Birighitti. The Reds- number ten did sublimely to rid of centre back Dominik Ritter before hitting a sweetly timed volley from eight metres only for Birighitti to pull off an excellent reflex save to keep it out.
It was then the Jets that went inches from breaking the deadlock in the 23rd minute when Ritter-s shot from within a metre in a congested six yard box took a deft yet vital deflection off Carrusca on the goal line to force it onto the crossbar.
But then just before half time a brain explosion allowed the Jets to go in with their noses in front. From well inside his own half, Cameron Watson threw a long ball back in the direction of Nigel Boogaard and Galekovic, the former leaving it for his captain and Galekovic grabbed the ball to give Newcastle a free kick next to the penalty spot.
Goodwin-s resultant effort aimed at the right post took a fortunate touch off Bridges to send the ball over the goal line.
However, it did not take long for parity to be restored as Carrusca, who had been relatively quiet up to that point, produced a piece of individual magic to put the Reds on level terms.
The Jets stood off the Argentine at their own peril and after taking a sublime first touch from Jake Barker-Daish-s pass, he cruised his way to just outside the penalty area before expertly curling a left footed shot which gave Birighitti no chance.
The goal seemed to liven up the Reds as they took the game up a gear, the home side striving to put pressure on second spot while Newcastle knew a draw would likely not be enough.
Both sides pushed forward for a winner, however a deciding goal would not eventuate even though there were still some more twists and turns to follow.
Newcastle substitute Andrew Hoole thought he had claims for a penalty when he was brought down by Jon McKain in the area but the referee was unmoved, before Reds substitute Jeronimo Neumann hit the crossbar with a header from a Carrusca cross.
Carrusca-s night ended in the 74th minute due to a groin problem that will be assessed further in the coming days, but the biggest talking point of the night came in injury time.
With the Reds producing a late flurry, they thought they had snatched all three points when Vidosic found the back of the net at the death but it was disallowed by the referee as the linesman adjudged Neumann to have initially been in an offside position as his flick on header saw the ball end up with Vidosic.
Match Details Adelaide United FC 1 (Carrusca 49-) Newcastle Jets 1 (Bridges 44-) Referee: Lucien Laverdure Crowd: 7,284 @ Hindmarsh Stadium
Adelaide United starting line-up: 1.Eugene Galekovic (gk) (c), 3.Nigel Boogaard, 4.Jon McKain, 5.Iain Fyfe, 6.Cassio, 8.Marcelo Carrusca (18.Fabian Barbiero 75-), 10.Dario Vidosic, 14.Cameron Watson, 17.Iain Ramsay (22.Fabio Ferreira 70-), 19.Jake Barker-Daish, 25.Tomi Juric (21.Jeronimo Neumann 61-) Substitutes not used: 20.Paul Izzo (gk) Yellow Cards: Vidosic 52- Red Cards: Nil
Newcastle Jets line-up: 20.Mark Birighitti (gk), 3.Zenon Caravella, 5.Dominik Ritter, 7.James Brown (26.Andrew Hoole 65-), 8.Ruben Zadkovich (c), 11.Connor Chapman, 12.Josh Brillante, 15.Craig Goodwin (17.James Virgili 88-), 19.Michael Bridges (2.Scott Neville 90+3-), 21.Marko Jesic, 22.Adam Taggart Substitutes not used: 30.Jack Duncan (gk) Yellow Cards: Brown 15-, Goodwin 45+1-, Jesic 66- Red Cards: Nil