Wellington Phoenix overcame the loss of talisman Paul Ifill to claim a vital 4-0 win over a depleted Newcastle Jets side in Wellington on Saturday night.
Ifill left the field on a stretcher after landing awkwardly following an attempted shot on goal in the 10th minute and was taken to hospital for X-rays which cleared him of a fracture just below his left knee.
But far from putting the Phoenix off their stride Ifill's departure seemed to galvanise them with Tim Brown, Marco Rojas - making his first start - and Chris Greenacre all scoring before half-time, which was more than enough for them to claim the crucial three points that lifted them level with the Jets on 25 points in the race for the play-offs.
Dylan Macallister's cool finish two minutes from time was simply icing on the cake.
Newcastle were missing seven first-choice players through either injury or suspension, including captain Ljubo Milicevic, and they did not look like a side that had gone unbeaten in their past seven games, nor one that had conceded just 12 goals heading into the game at Westpac Stadium.
The Phoenix started strongly putting the Jets under pressure from the whistle. Nikolai Topor-Stanley did enough to stop a Macallister strike after just a couple of minutes.
Ifill then had a couple of long-range shots at goal before his 50th A-League match ended in agony.
Rojas' cameos off the bench had given a hint at his talent and he was a constant menace, popping up all over the pitch as he harried Jets players whenever they had the ball and ran hard at them when the Phoenix pressed forward.
It was a strong run down the right flank by the livewire teenager that set up Brown's opener. Rojas got to the edge of the box, laid off to Greenacre, who crossed the ball in for Brown to head home less than 10 minutes after Ifill's departure.
Rojas doubled the tally in the 31st minute when Manny Muscat floated a ball into the back post, Macallister nodded it into the path of his young team-mate who slotted the ball past Matthew Nash.
The Phoenix's third came three minutes before the break when Greenacre, who replaced Ifill, turned and fired in from close range. Nash was beaten but Tarek Elrich cleared the ball but was behind the line when he did so and referee Jarred Gillett, after only a moment's hesitation, awarded the goal.
With Francis Jeffers' glanced header wide in the 24th minute the only real chance for the Jets in the first half, coach Branko Culina turned to his bench at half-time.
Tomislav Misura was replaced by Kaz Patafta and Labinot Haliti was brought on for Jacob Pepper and Haliti was quickly into the action forcing a smart one-handed save from Vukovic 10 minutes after coming on. Elrich had another effort saved by Vukovic on the hour mark but chances remained few and far between for the visitors as their golden run came to an end.
With the points sewn up, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert emptied his bench swapping one teenager for another when he replaced Rojas with defender James Musa for the final 10 minutes and Macallister crowned a good team performance to slot home a fourth goal two minutes from time.