Waitakere United will take a three-goal cushion to Auckland next Sunday after a thrilling 4-1 win over Hawke's Bay United in the first leg of their ASB Premiership semi-final in Napier on Sunday.
A first half double for Fijian comeback goal king Roy Krishna set Waitakere on their way to an impressive first leg win after Allan Pearce saw two efforts hit the crossbar and one shot ricochet back off Richard Gillespie's post as the defending champions overcame a spirited start by their hosts.
Krishna opened the scoring from the penalty mark on 22 minutes after Stephen Hindmarch mistimed a tackle on Pearce, then doubled the lead two minutes before the break after wreaking havoc on the right.
Skipper Jake Butler extended the defending champions advantage to three, powering home a Chad Coombes corner in the 62nd minute to make it 3-0. Coombes got in on the goal spree when a Krishna backheel sent him through on goal before Cole Peverley executed a last ditch tackle, only for Coombes to somehow scoop home the finish from the ground.
Hawke's Bay finally broke through a resilient Waitakere rearguard effort with 12 minutes left on the clock when Cole Peverley scored what could yet be a vital away goal, with the second leg at Fred Taylor Park in Whenuapai just six days away.
Auckland City will also take two valuable away goals home to Kiwitea Street in the second leg of their semi-final next Sunday, as they cling to a narrow lead after a tense 2-1 win over Canterbury United at ASB Football Park on Sunday.
Midfielder Chris Bale capitalised on a defensive error in the 16th minute, just when pressure from the home side looked like swinging the pendulum in Canterbury's favour.
The Canterbury defence failed to clear their lines and the in-form Auckland City man Bale slipped in to slot home the opening goal, after Aaron Clapham had rattled the visitors post with a rasping shot seven minutes prior.
The home side levelled the match when Ashley Wellbourn scored his fourth goal of the season in the 68th minute, yet it was Auckland who still found the winner and killed the game off when Manel Exposito netted a 70th minute reply.
Canterbury now need to inflict a rare home defeat on Auckland in the return leg next weekend to progress to the March 17 grand final and Hawke's Bay have a mountain to climb to reverse a four away goal margin.