Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Sydney FC 1
They came in their thousands to see the Western Sydney Wanderers emerge with a slice of history. The 1-1 draw means it didn't happen, but it's barely a formality now.
Only a miracle will stop Tony Popovic's side walking away with the Premiers' Plate. Central Coast have to win both their matches and the Wanderers have to lose against Newcastle next Friday. Write your own ticket for such an outcome.
The other half of the equation is Sydney FC. They're close to locking in that top-six place, but will probably need more points in Brisbane this coming Thursday to make sure of it.
This derby was by no means a classic in terms of the quality. In terms of the spectacle, however, it was spine-tingling.
It's not unfair to say the atmosphere overwhelmed both sets of players. Besides, Australian football isn't familiar with nights like this.
Both teams can walk away with their heads held high. Even though the Wanderers' 10-game winning streak has ended, they can't be too disappointed.
Earlier in the day, Sydney coach Frank Farina made the bold decision to stick with Ivan Necevski in goal and he may have done enough to stay there again next week.
It was Popovic who rang the changes, however. With Aaron Mooy, Jerome Polenz and Youssouf Hersi already out, news that captain Michael Beauchamp had to withdraw with a hamstring strain was most unwelcome. Therefore, seldom-seen faces such as Shannon Cole, Kwabena Appiah-Kubi and Jason Trifiro started. Labinot Haliti, scorer of three goals in three games, was benched. Precious gifts for the visitors, it seemed. As the stadium throbbed with energy from both sets of fans, 19,585 of them in total, the players couldn't help but play the opening stanza at a reckless pace.
Beautiful football? Not quite. Just a flurry of legs and arms, passes being sprayed, balls bouncing off nervous feet and eager tackles flying in. Nerves were on edge, or more likely, over it. That suited Sydney just fine. Not a ball-playing team by nature, the Sky Blues were happy to scrap and stifle the Wanderers, who were forced into playing repeated long balls into the front third.
As the game unfolded, Frank Lowy watched on eagle-eyed, from the stands, his vested interests in both clubs over their respective journeys made for torn loyalties.
Not far from Lowy sat FFA chief executive David Gallop, flanked by Liberal minister Graham Annesley. Previously they linked arms for the NRL. Here, the discussion was strictly of the round ball - and perhaps of an upgraded stadium the Wanderers are soon going to require, if they don't already.
However, as the locals were in celebration mode, the only fans singing after 34 minutes were from the other side of town. Who could bring them such joy? Who else? It just had to be Alessandro Del Piero. Though in the midst of his best season, the trouble with Nikolai Topor-Stanley remains his distribution, particular under pressure. On the biggest night of his career, it cost him badly. He tried to play the ball to Iacopo La Rocca - filling in at centre-half - but it was effectively on a plate for Del Piero, who danced past his countryman and then fired past Ante Covic. In the subsequent minutes, Mark Bridge had two glorious chance to equalise against his old club. Of the first, he couldn't organise his feet despite being barely a few metres out and then had another effort deflected just wide by Necevski.
While Lucas Neill started for Sydney, his strained hamstring buckled again, and he had to be brought off at half-time. That might be season over for him. The Wanderers changed Adam D'Apuzzo for Tarek Elrich at the same point. Nine minutes later, Shinji Ono, who missed last week with a groin strain, also hobbled off in an equally worrying sign. But the twists and turns continued as Brett Emerton - already sitting on a yellow card - was dismissed with a straight red by Kris Griffiths-Jones for a sliding tackle. Crude though it may have been, the veteran was understandably miffed at the decision. Fair or not, that decision set the scene for a stirring finale.
Not long after, some 21 minutes from time, Cole, a former Sydney defender, levelled things up as his exquisite free-kick stayed curled beyond the reach of Necevski.
Both teams sought a winner but when a frustrated La Rocca was sent off in injury-time for elbowing Terry Antonis after failing to shake him off, it was an incident that probably summed up the occasion.