The Wellington Phoenix continued their barnstorming finish to the A-League season, dispatching Newcastle 4-1 on the back of a superb David Williams treble at Westpac Stadium.
Chasing their first finals appearance in four years, Wellington have set their sights on overhauling either Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory to qualify third and needed a win on Saturday to stay on track.
Missing golden boot front runner Roy Krishna though suspension, Wellington needed Williams to step up and he was quick to oblige, combining smoothly with Sarpreet Singh to slip in behind the Jets defence after barely 30 seconds.
Williams’ clinical right-foot strike — his ninth goal of the season — left former Phoenix keeper Glen Moss no chance.
The 31-year-old striker was far from finished, although Wellington could only take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Williams added a 60th minute penalty — negated two minutes later by Roy O’Donovan’s close-range finish — then produced a sweetly struck curling effort in the 65th to bring up his hat trick.
Singh made it 4-1 in the 73rd and Wellington were able to cruise home.
They’re eyeing the play-offs with added confidence, having scored 15 goals in their last three games.
Newcastle had their chances, especially in the first half.
They should have levelled the scores after six minutes, when Daniel Georgievski finished a sharp break down the left when he squared back for Jair with plenty of room in the area only for the Brazilian striker to miss a sitter.
Both teams continued to play a creative game with Newcastle looking particularly dangerous from dead ball situations, while Wellington’s pace through the middle kept the Jets defence stretched.
Goalkeepers Moss and Filip Kurto were both kept busy, Moss producing a fine diving save to deny a Max Burgess pile-driver as the half-hour mark approached, just minutes after Kurto had punched clear a threatening Dimitri Petratos free kick.
The frantic pace continued from the restart, Kurto keeping a clean sheet with a fine reflex own-goal save in the 53rd minute before Jets skipper Nigel Boogard pulled Williams down as he bore down on goal.
Referee Matt Conger consulted the VAR, awarded the penalty and Wellington regained the lead.
There was a downside for Wellington in first half stoppage time when defender Louis Fenton suffered a suspected broken foot.
Last year’s beaten finalists, the Jets’ hopes of making the top-six have all but faded away, as they remain mired in seventh place, five points shy of sixth-placed Adelaide United.