Adelaide fans added a cruel twist at the Cake Tin last night when they gave the "shirts off" salute in the 80th minute - normally a signature move of the Yellow Fever when their team are winning.

The Fever clapped that move, but there was little for them to applaud on the pitch.

What they witnessed was Adelaide United surging to the top of the A-League after a comprehensive win. The victory extended Adelaide's unbeaten run to a club record 14 matches and, more importantly, took them a point clear of Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar at the top of the table. It was also Adelaide's biggest win of the season.

But for the Phoenix, it was a home horror show which left them languishing in ninth. They were unable to craft anywhere near enough meaningful attacks on goal and their defence was haphazard at best, even allowing for the fact Adelaide are now title favourites.

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The Phoenix had gone into the match after a gritty 2-1 win over Melbourne City last weekend which had even encouraged coach Ernie Merrick to suggest they still have a flicker of hope of making the top-six playoffs.

But they were generally sloppy and disjointed last night and, for many, the end of the season can't come soon enough. At least their medium-term future is secure with their licence extension but considerable work needs to be done to strengthen the squad in the off-season.

Striker Hamish Watson, who was brought in last month as injury cover for Roy Krishna, returned to the starting line-up for Wellington but got little change from an Adelaide defence which has conceded just eight goals in 14 games.

Blake Powell replaced Matt Ridenton up front at halftime and had a great chance early soon after the restart but, like a number of players, lost his footing in the penalty area. The Phoenix's best chances came from uncharacteristic Adelaide defensive gaffes.

For the first 30 minutes, the match was restricted to a congested midfield battle, with neither keeper called into action.

But in the 31st minute, following a corner, Adelaide stopper Jordan Elsey headed back across goal - via an unfortunate nod-on from Tom Doyle - and fellow defender Dylan McGowan was on hand to slide the ball home from close range.

It was just McGowan's second goal in 66 appearances for Adelaide and, from the Phoenix's perspective, was depressingly soft after a composed start in which they had bossed possession.

Ten minutes later, Stefan Mauk made it 2-0 with a beautifully constructed goal that Manny Muscat - due to leave the Phoenix for Melbourne City at the end of the season - will not fondly remember.

Bruce Djite made it 3-0 in the 48th minute with a fierce first-time shot and in the 90th minute, substitute Pablo Sanchez burst through the middle to complete the rout.

Wellington Phoenix 0 Adelaide United 4 (D. McGowan, S. Mauk, B. Djite, P. Sanchez). Halftime: 0-2.