Roy Krishna completed a hat trick to hand Wellington a last-gasp 3-2 win over Melbourne City and keep alive their hopes of hosting an A-League home final.
Krishna tucked home the winner from a goalmouth scramble in the 94th minute to cap a thrilling contest on Sunday in Wellington which the visitors had mostly dominated.
Riley McGree scored twice for City, both times cancelling out Krishna strikes, but the home team held firm to cement fifth place and line up a shot at a fourth-placed finish in next week's final round. City are all-but guaranteed to finish sixth, which would set up a Melbourne derby in the first round of the playoffs. The Phoenix will need to pick up points away to Perth and hope Adelaide slip up in Brisbane if they are leapfrog the fourth-placed Reds.
As has been the case for much of the campaign, red-hot striker Krishna proved the difference. His first hat trick of the season lifts him to 18 goals -- two ahead Sydney FC's Adam Le Fondre atop the Golden Boot race. He also overtakes Jeremy Brockie as the leading scorer in a Phoenix season. Brockie notched 16 goals in 2012-13.
Coach Mark Rudan admitted Krishna's finishing prowess was an obvious reason for the huge attacking strides made this year by the club.
"There's been a huge change in him, not just mentally but physically. It's the best shape he's ever been in," Rudan said. "He's played a massive role as to why we're here and playing finals but there's more to come from Roy."
McGree's selection was inspired from coach Warren Joyce. He was the only change to the visitors' starting XI who drew 0-0 last week with Adelaide, replacing Kearyn Baccus in the midfield.
City deserved to win on weight of possession and chances, unleashing nine shots on goal to six. Wellington goalkeeper Filip Kurto was immense, making a handful of sharp saves as he did when the Phoenix won 1-0 when they met in January.
It was potentially the last game in Wellington for departing coach Mark Rudan, who was given a rousing reception by Phoenix fans as he left the ground.
He praised his players' fortitude after losses away to Adelaide and Brisbane.
"The most important thing was finding a way to win in injury time," he said. "Good teams do that ... and you need a bit of momentum heading into the finals."
A counter-attack led to Krishna's opener, a nifty finish after being played through by Max Burgess in the 27th minute. City responded with McGree carefully placing the ball past Kurto in the 42nd minute after the Polish gloveman had made successive reaction saves to two fearsome Jamie Maclaren strikes.
Krishna scored against the run of play soon after the break, rifling home a left-foot strike from the top of the box.
McGree's equaliser was high quality, twisting to connect first time with a clearance that was moving away from goal.