Former Jet Mark Bridge has come back to haunt his old side with a timely header to lead Western Sydney Wanderers to a tense 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.
Bridge, who etched himself in Newcastle folklore by scoring the winning goal in the Jets' championship winning 2007/08 season, scored in the 33rd minute of a gripping encounter with an assist by fellow former Jet Labinot Haliti.
It was Bridge's sixth goal against his old club and sees the Wanderers strengthen their grip on second spot on the A-League ladder while inflicting Newcastle's first loss at home this campaign.
The match started in balmy conditions in front of a crackling crowd of 16, 634 and the sway of the game ebbed and flowed throughout the first half-hour as both sides controlled patches and created half chances.
The Wanderers had the best early chance when they were gifted a free-kick on the edge of the area when Newcastle goal-keeper Mark Birighitti came out to scoop up a Wanderers through ball but ended up handling outside the area.
Referee Jarred Gillet issued a yellow card to Birighitti but it could have easily been red given the nature of infringement. The wall did its job to block the free kick.
Western Sydney opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark when Shinji Ono looped a cross to the back post where Haliti leapt high over Pepper to head back across for Mark Bridge to lob his header over Birighitti and into the far corner of the net. And although the Jets had claims for a push in the back on Pepper by Haliti, the goal stood.
The visitors went close again just before half-time when an unmarked Bridge claimed a cross at the back post, steadied but saw his shot smack off the crossbar and the sides went to the sheds with the Wanderers holding a handy 1-0 lead.
Jets coach Gary van Egmond brought on James Virgili for James Brown early in the second half in an attempt to sharpen the attack and followed that up with Michael Bridges and Craig Goodwin coming on for Andrew Hoole and skipper Ruben Zadkovich who looked to be carrying an ankle injury.
Goodwin had a golden chance to equalise with his first touch when he was played into space by Kantarovski but he fired his first time attempt from the edge of the box wide of the target.
Taggart showed a neat turn to get inside the box but was cut off from goal Matthew Spiranovic before Bridge played a neat chip for Goodwin and Taggart to hustle for a header near the back post that was diffused by Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
For all that, it was the Wanderers who had the most likely chances in the second half.
Youssouf Hersi got on the outside of Samuel Gallaway but saw his stinging shot parried by Birighitti, Haliti engineered a couple of chances that were blocked in the box by desperate Jets defenders while substitute Joshua Sotiro forced a fine diving save from Birighitti.
In the end, the Wanderers defence absorbed everything that the Jets threw at them and deserve the credit for a hard-earned three points.
Newcastle Jets 0
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Bridge 33
Crowd 16,634 at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle