An under-strength Melbourne Victory climbed to third place in the Hyundai A-League following a comfortable 3-1 win over Western Sydney at AAMI Park on Tuesday.
In a game brought forward from February due to a scheduling clash, the Victory - without a host of key players due to injuries, suspensions and international commitments - were rarely troubled by the reigning premiers, claiming their first win in four attempts courtesy of second-half goals from Archie Thompson, Kosta Barbarouses and Guilherme Finkler.
The result takes them above the Central Coast Mariners and into third in the standings, three points behind the Wanderers and seven back from leaders Brisbane.
Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic may regret starting with key men Tomi Juric, Shinji Ono and Youssouf Hersi on the bench after going down to a Victory team who were without captain Mark Milligan, in-demand midfielddf Mitch Nichols and marquee centre-back Pablo Contreras, as well as four players away with Australia's Under-22 side.
But the hosts made light of their numerous absentees, producing a dominant performance to revive hopes of a top-two finish.
The match kicked off in searing 40-degree heat, which might have been expected to result in a sluggish affair, but there was a good tempo early on, with the Victory taking the initiative.
The first real chance arrived in the fifth minute, when James Troisi played Andrew Nabbout through on goal, Dean Heffernan getting back to clear.
Six minutes later, Nabbout reached the by-line and cut the ball back to Barbarouses, who sold a clever dummy before sending his shot just wide of the far post.
The Wanderers returned fire two minutes later with their first sight of goal. Kwabena Appiah turned makeshift centre-back Adama Traore with ease inside the area and advanced on goal, but was blocked off by Nathan Coe, allowing Rashid Mahazi to effect a hurried clearance.
The Victory were forced into a change in the 14th minute when Nabbout was knocked out by a kick to the head from Heffernan at a Wanderers corner, prompting the introduction of Finkler.
The injury disrupted the flow of the game, and it took some time for both teams to find their rhythm again. The hosts were the first to do so, but chances remained at a premium.
Leijer wasted a half-chance when he headed over unmarked at the back post from a Finkler free-kick on 28 minutes, while Heffernan had a good strike from distance tipped wide of goal by Coe five minutes later.
At the other end, Finkler and Barbarouses combined well on the right flank, the former squaring the ball with Thompson lurking, only for Ante Covic to get there first.
The visitors came the closest of either team to opening the scoring in first-half injury time, when Mark Bridge forced Coe into a good save down low to the goalkeeper's left. Nikolai Topor-Stanley then headed straight at the goalkeeper from the resulting corner.
The Victory started the second half brightly and were rewarded in the 52nd minute. Mahazi found Barbarouses on the right flank, and the New Zealand international delivered a first-time pass to the back post, where Thompson was on hand to guide the ball home.
The hosts doubled their lead 10 minutes later, skipper Leigh Broxham's well-weighted pass finding Barbarouses, who turned Topor-Stanley inside-out before firing low beyond Covic to the far post.
The Wanderers did pull a goal back when substitute Juric got in behind the Victory defence to tuck the ball past Coe four minutes into injury time, but any hopes of an improbable comeback were swiftly extinguished when Finkler broke up field to prod home his side's third little more than a minute later.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Thompson 52', Barbarouses 62', Finkler 94')
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Juric 93')
Crowd: 14,774 @ AAMI Park