Overlooked Socceroos Terry Antonis and James Troisi have fired Melbourne Victory to a 2-1 A-League win over Newcastle Jets.
Troisi thundered home after Antonis' silky opener and Kaine Sheppard's reply in a grand final rematch at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
The game played out similarly to last May's championship game; a tight affair Victory were lucky to edge.
The home side's two goals were their only shots on target, demonstrating both a performance well below the title-winners' best and Lewis Italiano's poor goalkeeping.
But coach Kevin Muscat will be delighted with three points to keep them in touch with runaway leaders Perth Glory, given Victory's injury run during a busy summer spell.
"That was outstanding tonight. A big big result for us," Muscat said, denying his side were second-best.
"We earned that result tonight. Thoroughly earned it."
Muscat changed up his formation, resting Kosta Barbarouses and bringing in Kenny Athiu to partner Ola Toivonen in a towering front two.
The result was a disjointed first half, when Antonis and Josh Hope shined but decent chances for either side were few and far between.
Lawrence Thomas celebrated with a Hulk-style flex after pulling off a stunning close-range save from Roy O'Donovan's volleyed effort after just three minutes.
He was required again to deny the Irishman's flick at the near post after Jair danced along the touchline.
Antonis lit up the contest on 48 minutes, running onto Kenny Athiu's back heel and striking home from outside the box off his non-preferred left foot.
Victory were doing just enough to keep the Jets out but were at sixes and sevens on 78 minutes, when Sheppard poked home amid sloppy defending.
Newcastle looked a more likely winner but then came Troisi's stunning intervention, running at goal from a tight angle and belting home at the near post.
The creative midfielder, who sounded off after being overlooked for the Socceroos' Asian Cup squad, celebrated by putting the ball in his shirt in a tribute to his wife's pregnancy.
While Victory march on, the result leaves Newcastle marooned outside the top six.
Ernie Merrick's side stay seventh, seven points behind sixth-placed Adelaide United, despite a performance worthy of taking a point back to the Hunter.
Merrick rued a lack of quality finishing, noting the growing gulf between his side and finals football.
"James Troisi's shot was the difference. A quality strike into the corner of the net," he said.
"The gap is getting larger and we're shooting ourselves in the foot."
Australian Associated Press