Melbourne City are on track to claim their first top-two finish following a well-deserved 2-0 win over runaway A-League leaders Sydney FC.
It was City's first match in more than four months but they scarcely missed a beat against the Sky Blues on Saturday night.
City could have been a couple of goals to the good by halftime but had to settle for second-half strikes from Craig Noone and Jamie Maclaren.
City's best previous finish in their nine A-League seasons was third but they now boast a three-point buffer over third-placed Wellington Phoenix with two matches remaining.
"I was surprised (by our performance) because we played against Sydney FC and they have been the league's best team," City coach Erick Mombaerts said.
"It was not only about the result but also about the performance that we want to produce and tonight it is exactly what we want to produce.
"We practised a lot to be better during the break but I didn't know what our competitive level would be.
"It was a really good performance because we found a very good balance between defensive and attacking organisation."
City looked poised in possession and created numerous strong scoring opportunities in the opening period, although ultimately both goals came from defensive errors.
Maclaren's goal pushed the Socceroo striker to 19 goals for the campaign and outright lead in the leading scorer's list.
At the other end of the pitch, Sydney FC's key attacking outlets Kosta Barbarouses and Adam Le Fondre - who is on 18 goals for the campaign - were restricted to a few half-chances.
Sydney FC were defending an extremely strong historical record against City but they barely forced opposition goalkeeper Tom Glover into a save.
The runaway leaders lined up with a strong starting side despite earning the Premiers Plate, missing only regular starter Rhyan Grant due to injury.
Sydney FC coach Steve Corica lamented the defensive errors that led to both goals and ensured his side continued their indifferent form since the competition restart.
"It is a good wake-up call for the boys, it happens to the best of teams, it happened to Liverpool after they won the championship," Corica said.
"The goals weren't special, they were our mistakes and that has been the case in the last couple of games."
Australian Associated Press