An Adam Taggart hat-trick guided Newcastle Jets to an impressive 5-2 win over Melbourne Heart at Wanderers Oval on Sunday afternoon and outright third place in the National Youth League.
The Jets dominated play in the first half with attractive goals to Bernardo Ribiero, Taggart and Zenon Caravella for a 3-0 lead at half-time.
Taggart's second made it 4-0 early in the second stanza before the home side let their intensity slip and the Heart were quick to capitalise with Zac Walker bagging a brace to make it 4-2 with 20 minutes to play.
But Taggart extinguished any hope of a Heart comeback when he pounced on an error from the Heart backline to record an impressive hat-trick and secure a vital three points for his side.
The Jets took the lead in just the fifth minute of play when James Virgili crossed into the box for Taggart. The young striker couldn't quite get his foot to the ball but it went through to an unmarked Ribiero at the back post and he calmly slotted his shot back across the face of goal and into the corner of the net.
Newcastle almost doubled their lead just two minutes later when Caravella dispossessed Heart midfielder Quinn MacDonald just 30 out from the visitors goal and unleashed a sharp, rising shot that was tipped over the bar by Heart goal-keeper Christopher Maynard.
The Jets were forced into an early change when Ribiero injured his right thigh in the 22nd minute and was replaced by Kyle Bradbery.
The home side continued to have the better of play and they continually threatened the Heart goal with Maynard saving a sharp chance by Jacob Pepper at the near post and producing a diving save to stop Mitch Cooper's skimming shot from the edge of the area.
The Jets profited from their pressure with a beautifully engineered goal up the middle of the park just after the half-hour mark.
Defensive midfielder Mitch Oxborrow took the ball in his own half and threaded a pass through to Cooper who turned quickly and delivered a lovely through ball for Taggart to run onto it on the edge of the area and slot past Maynard for a 2-0 lead.
Newcastle attacked at will and should have had a third when Virgili hit the post from close range before firing over with the goal at his mercy.
The Jets eventually converted in the 44th minute when Taggart's shot rebounded off the crossbar to an unmarked Caravella, who slotted home from just 10 metres out to give the home side a comfortable 3-0 lead at the break.
The Jets made a host of changes at the break with Virgili, Caravella and Ben Kennedy replaced by Bobby Russell, Michael Finlayson and Jack Duncan respectively but they continued their momentum when Taggart bagged his second just eight minutes after the resumption.
A great solo run from skipper Mason Campbell was punctuated with a perfectly weighted through ball for Taggart to collect and shot just inside the box to make it 4-0 after 53 minutes.
The Heart gave themselves a glimmer of a hope when Walker pulled a goal back just before the hour mark when he was afforded too much time on the edge of the area and he pulled the trigger on wonderful shot that curled into the top corner of the net.
Melbourne continued their comeback when Walker grabbed his second in almost identical fashion after a being put in behind the Jets defence with an intelligent sliding pass from Ben Garuccio to make it 4-2 with 20 minutes to play.
Newcastle wrestled back momentum and sealed the match when Taggart pounced on a failed short goal-kick from Maynard and steered a left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net to make it 5-2 in the 78th minute.
Taggart almost had his fourth five minutes from full-time when his looping shot from the edge of the area was tipped into then over the crossbar by Maynard.
The Heart capped off a disappointing afternoon by finishing the match with 10 men after Walker was sent from the field for his second bookable offence in the 86th minute before substitute Andrew Cartanos missed a sitter in front of an open goal on the stroke of full-time.
Newcastle Jets 5
Taggart 34, 53, 78, Ribiero 5, Caravella 44
Melbourne Heart 2
Walker 58, 70
At Wanderers Oval, Newcastle
1. Ben Kennedy (GK) (20. Jack Duncan 46), 2. Jacob Pepper, 3. Mason Campbell (capt), 4. Nicholas Cowburn, 5. Luke Remington, 6. Mitchell Oxborrow, 7. James Virgili (14. Bobby Russell 46), 8. Zenon Caravella (13. Michael Finlayson 46), 9. Adam Taggart, 10. Mitch Cooper, 11. Bernardo Ribeiro (12. Kale Bradbery 22).
1. Christopher Maynard (GK) 2. Phillip Petreski (capt), 3. Quinn MacDonald, (14. Tyler James 55) 4. Andrew Mullet, 5. William Abbott, 6. Zac Walker, 7. Ersin Kaya (12. Andrew Cartanos 60), 8. Cameron Edwards, 9. Evan Batsis (15. Wade Decker 60), 10. Stefan Mauk, 11. Ben Garuccio.
Unused substitute: 16. Alastair Bray (GK)