A last-minute equaliser allowed Adelaide United to pinch a 2-2 draw against Melbourne Heart on Friday night and climb to second on the A-League ladder.
The Reds lost a player to a broken leg, a defender for headbutting, and also appeared to be losing the game until Fabio Ferreira’s last-gasp goal squared a feisty fixture.
The heated affair featured the fifth-fastest goal in the league’s history, two penalties, 11 yellow cards, a red card and 33 fouls.
After Adelaide’s Marcelo Carrusca scored in 25 seconds at Coopers Stadium, the Heart hit back with David Williams and Mate Dugandzic scoring.
And the visitors appeared set for an upset win until one minute from fulltime when Ferreira saved the Reds in what looms as a costly match for Adelaide.
Their right-back Michael Marrone suffered a suspected broken leg, their left-back Tarek Elrich was marched for headbutting and five of his teammates – and four Heart players – were given yellow cards.
Melbourne’s Williams converted a penalty and missed another – both chances coming after rash acts by Adelaide’s Elrich.
In the 33rd minute, Elrich recklessly cut across Stefan Mauk’s path and sent the Heart player sprawling inside the box – Williams coolly scored his 12th goal this season.
Just one minute later, Elrich headbutted Melbourne’s Aziz Behich behind the play and was red-carded.
His dismissal sparked a furious reaction and his snap also earned the Heart another penalty – though this time Williams’ shot was saved by Eugene Galekovic diving to his right.
Adelaide tempers remained frayed and the Heart snatched a lead five minutes later when, after a goal-mouth scramble, Dugandzic’s blasted a low shot into the net.
The 10-man Reds pushed for an equaliser the second half but appeared doomed until Ferreira slid onto a speculative cross to score in the 93rd minute.
Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau was content in the knowledge the Reds were now certain finalists.
“I am so happy with the way that we played, for the players’ attitude,” he said.
Melbourne Heart coach John van `t Schip labelled the last-minute equaliser a cruel blow, adding he was uncertain what sparked such a fiery encounter.
“We never had that intention and I think Adelaide didn’t have that intention as well – it was in the air,” he said.
“But, after all, I think everybody would say it was a great game to watch.”