Western United and Sydney FC played out a sensational 3-3 draw in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men on Saturday night.
Lachie Wales gave United an early lead before Connor Pain put the Green and Black back in front after Robert Mak’s equaliser.
Luke Brattan’s own goal early in the second half gave United a two-goal cushion but the hosts brought it back with goals from Diego Caballo and Mak once again.
There were chances at both ends throughout the contest but the points were ultimately shared, continuing the tight battle for finals football.
Dylan Pierias came into the starting line-up for Western United with Noah Botic dropping to the bench having arrived back from international duty in Italy late in the week.
That was one of two changes to John Aloisi’s side as Nikolai Topor-Stanley replaced the suspended Josh Risdon, while Ramy Najjarine lay in waiting for his Western United debut off the bench.
It was a breathless contest from the outset with both sides trading forays forward in the opening exchanges, though Sydney settled into the game the quicker of the two sides.
The Sky Blues couldn’t make good on a couple of early chances, though, giving United the opportunity to hit the lead with a swift breakaway.
Cutting straight though the middle of the pitch, Pain slid Wales through on goal and even though the No.8 slipped as he shaped to shoot, he was still able to send his effort beyond Andrew Redmayne at the near post and into the top corner.
The lead didn’t last too long, though, as Sydney put together a silky move on the edge of their attacking box. Max Burgess played a neat reverse pass to Mak darting in behind, and the Slovenian international finished instinctively beyond Jamie Young.
Parity then lasted half as long as United’s initial lead in a whirlwind opening half hour as Pain got on the scoresheet himself having set up the first goal.
It was Pain’s own brilliant pass that started the move as he sent Pierias on his way and when his teammate’s shot was parried by Redmayne, Pain showed brilliant composure to control and fire into the net before his effort could be blocked.
Pierias was a huge threat for United and nearly found a third just before the break when he crashed the crossbar with a left-footed effort, leaving the visitors with just the one-goal lead at the interval.
If the first half was action-packed, then the second period had a whole lot more coming.
United extended the lead in the 56th minute when Topor-Stanley headed Wales’ brilliant free-kick towards goal before Sydney FC’s Brattan helped the ball into his own net.
The two-goal deficit felt important for the Green and Black but it was erased in a trice when Caballo got around the back post to head home a cross from Brattan, who atoned for his own goal with an assist straight away.
Sydney nearly then equalised immediately from kick-off when Anthony Caceres arrived at the top of the box, but Young flew to his right to make the save and push the ball out for a corner.
The hosts then had a series of chances in succession when Burgess hit the post before United managed to avoid two subsequent efforts finding the back of the net.
Sydney were throwing everything at an equaliser and United was falling further back in defence, but the visitors very nearly wrapped up the win four minutes from time.
Substitutes combined when Alessandro Diamanti played Botic in behind, but the latter’s effort was well saved by Redmayne before the Sydney keeper denied Diamanti from his follow-up attempt.
Those saves would prove to be crucial as Sydney drew level minutes later thanks to some more Mak brilliance in the form of a stunning long-range curler after beating a couple of United defenders.
In one final twist in the match, United wrestled the momentum back late on and had time for two more big chances as Redmayne denied Diamanti with another wonderful save.
The biggest opportunity fell to Najjarine who impressed off the bench, linking with fellow substitute Sebastian Pasquali before missing his kick at the vital moment when played in on goal.
The breathless contest ended with the teams unable to be separated, the point leaving United two points off Sydney in sixth place heading into the final four matches of the season.