A Labinot Haliti brace has helped the Western Sydney Wanderers extend their record winning run out to 10 matches after they defeated 10-man Melbourne Heart 3-1 in torrential rain at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Haliti opened the scoring with a superb curling effort in the 28th minute which was spectacularly cancelled out by a Golgol Mebrahtu thunderbolt nine minutes later.
However, Haliti coolly placed the ball up over Heart keeper Andrew Redmayne in the 60th minute and Iacopo La Rocca iced the result with a lovely finish two minutes from time.
The result put the Wanderers eight points clear on top of the A-League ladder and if Central Coast fail to beat Brisbane on Sunday, Tony Popovic's men will incredibly be crowned premiers in their debut season and also gain automatic qualification for the 2014 AFC Champions League.
While Haliti was the gamebreaker, Mark Bridge was exceptional for the visitors and was at the heart of almost every Wanderers attacking foray.
The Heart have now lost their third match in a row and the ninth-placed team must now win their final two matches if they are any chance of achieving successive finals appearances.
The only sour note for the Wanderers was a quad injury to Jerome Polenz who was substituted in the 28th minute.
The Heart made five changes to their starting line-up with star captain Fred, Patrick Gerhardt, Jonathan Germano, Mebrahtu and Samuel Mitchinson replacing Jamie Coyne, David Vrankovic, Marcel Meeuwis, Nick Kalmar and David Williams.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers made the one forced change with Japanese superstar Shinji Ono (hamstring) making way for La Rocca.
Western Sydney wasted a golden opportunity to grab the lead in just the sixth minute when Nikolai Topor-Stanley rose tallest to meet an Aaron Mooy free kick with his head but somehow missed the target from just a few yards out.
Two minutes later, Mebrahtu took a free kick of his own from outside the box but all he managed to do was sting the gloves of veteran Wanderers custodian Ante Covic.
The Heart looked more threatening when going forward during the opening 30 minutes but the likes of Josip Tadic and Mebrahtu squandered some half-decent chances.
The hosts' defence were successfully keeping the Wanderers at bay too but despite all their good work, and the fact they enjoyed 58 percent of possession after nearly half an hour, the visitors hit the scoreboard first courtesy of Haliti in the 28th minute.
The striker's effort from just outside the area clipped the inside of the left post and went into the back of the net after being set up by a beautiful run down the left by Bridge and a Mooy assist.
The Wanderers were more organised going forward than the Heart and could have doubled their lead eight minutes later had a Bridge shot from close range not been kept out by a desperate group of red-and-white bodies.
Mebrahtu had been threatening to do something throughout the first half and he finally delivered in the 37th minute with an absolute screamer from 25 yards that flew past a helpless Covic like a tracer bullet to level proceedings 1-1.
And the Heart thought they took the lead two minutes before half-time when Richard Garcia headed the ball past Covic but Tadic was correctly ruled for offside, and the goal was disallowed.
Mebrahtu had the first chance of the second half when ran into the area in the 48th minute after evading three defenders but his shot under pressure went wide.
And Haliti made Melbourne pay 12 minutes later when he doubled his, and his team's, tally after placing the ball perfectly over a flat-footed Redmayne after being released into the area courtesy of a delightful through ball from La Rocca.
Redmayne did his best to keep the Heart in it in the 73rd minute with a superb save denying a close-range Dino Kresinger header.
But any chance the Heart may have had of salvaging something from this match was snuffed out when Simon Colosimo was sent off for picking up his second yellow card in four minutes for separate clashes with Kresinger.
And a lovely finish from an unattended La Rocca down the right sealed the deal for the Wanderers who have one hand firmly holding the Premiers' Plate.
Melbourne Heart 1 (Mebrahtu 37)
Western Sydney Wanderers 3 (Haliti 28, 60, La Rocca 88)
Crowd: 6101 at AAMI Park