|By PAUL BARBIERI
Joshua Risdon scored a 94th-minute winner as Perth Glory kept their A-League finals hopes alive with a 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory in a thriller at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
In what may be a season-defining win for last season's runners-up, the Glory went behind early on as Adrian Leijer nodded home in the 13th minute before Perth responded with goals to Chris Harold and Travis Dodd before the break.
Down on numbers, Victory coach Ange Postecoglou turned to his youngsters and they delivered with a minute remaining in controversial circumstances as Connor Pain burst down the left and controlled a ball that appeared to have crossed the line.
The linesman failed to raise his flag, though, and it allowed Pain to cross to Scott Galloway, whose cutback was fired in by Chris Cristaldo.
But as the Glory's season appeared to be slipping away up stepped Risdon, the left defender coolly taking a quality ball from Jack Clisby before turning onto his left and curling it home past a helpless Nathan Coe for his first Glory goal.
Last on the table when Ian Ferguson was sacked in February, Perth have now won four of their past six games under Alistair Edwards to climb into fifth on the table ahead of next week's last-round clash with Adelaide.
Victory, meanwhile, will have to win on the road against Wellington Phoenix next week to earn third spot on the table and a home final.
Going in, both sides were forced into numerous changes as a result of international games, the Victory losing key trio Archie Thompson, Marco Rojas and Mark Milligan as the Glory did without Michael Thwaite and Shane Smeltz, while skipper Jacob Burns was suspended after earning an eighth yellow card last weekend.
One of the players who came in for Victory was former Glory midfielder Jesse Makarounas and the youngster made the most of his first start for Melbourne by setting up his side's first goal.
Having conceded a corner, Makarounas stepped up to deliver the set piece in the 13th minute, the 18-year-old curling the ball in from the left for Leijer to charge in and nod home at the near post.
Despite going behind, the Glory soon regained control of possession and equalised eight minutes later.
With defensive midfielder Milligan absent for Victory, Glory lynchpin Liam Miller was given free rein through the middle and he made it count with a deft little cross from the left that was spectacularly volleyed in off the post by Harold from 15 metres.
Andrew Nabbout fired wide for Victory in the 25th minute but it was a rare forward move by the hosts as Glory dominated possession against their lethargic opponents, enjoying over 60 percent of possession at the half-hour mark.
Perth turned that control into a second goal in the 38th minute as Miller delivered from a central position to Ryo Nagai on the left, the Japanese forward crossing for Dodd to slide in between two defenders and hook it home.
Three minutes later Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe spectacularly denied Nagai as the Glory man's deflected shot from Miller's pinpoint cross was tipped around the upright.
Nagai had another chance just before the break as he was played in and found himself one-on-one with Coe 10 metres out, but when he didn't pull the trigger, Leijer had the chance to clear.
Making matters worse for Victory, Makarounas was forced off the field just moments before the break, the youngster reportedly tearing his hamstring.
Victory's chances took another hit in the 58th minute as playmaker Marcos Flores, in his first start for a month, found himself off the ground with cramps in his quad.
Against the odds, Victory found a spark on the hour but were denied twice in a minute by some stunning saves by Danny Vukovic in the Perth goal.
On the hour Pain launched a stunning 35-metre strike that looked to be curling into the top-right corner before Vukovic launched himself backwards to tip it over, while the keeper batted away a close-range attempt by Leijer from the resultant corner.
Coe was on hand once again a minute later, denying Harold from a flowing Glory move as the match opened up considerably.
In the 70th minute Perth were denied a penalty despite Galloway clipping Steve McGarry in the box and it proved a costly decision as Victory upped the ante in the final 10 minutes and equalised.
But the hosts didn't count on Risdon storming forward and firing home in the most dramatic circumstances.