The A-League Grand Final descended into chaos in its final minutes after Newcastle Jets star Roy O'Donovan was sent off for a flying head kick to Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas.
The 32-year-old O'Donovan tried leaping through the air in a final attempt to snag a goal for the home side — who were trailling 1-0 — after a free kick was taken in the 94th minute. His boot sailed into Thomas' face and smashed the 25-year-old to the ground. Thomas was sent to the deck in agony as the referee closed in to hand O'Donovan a red card.
Twitter exploded at the incredible scene, moments before Melbourne claimed the 2018 title.
Thomas returned to the field with his head wrapped up in bandages and later won the Joe Marston medal as the best player on the field.
'OBVIOUS ERROR': VAR CALL SLAMMED
The controversial VAR system again reared its head during the biggest game of the 2018 A-League season.
After being awarded a free kick, Melbourne Victory players lined up alongside their Newcastle Jets opponents at the top of the box and as the kick came in it was evident they were standing in an off-side position.
Unfortunately it wasn't picked up by the technology.
The clear miss left many fans up in arms and to make matters worse for the home sided Jets, it led to the opening goal of the game.
Kosta Barbarouses pounced on a ball inside the penalty box and watched as the ball richoted into the back of the net off of a Jets player.
His strike in the ninth minute was the quickest goal ever recorded in A-League grand final history, much to the dismay of Jets fans.
Aussie legend Robbie Slater teed off at the call in the halftime break. "He's clearly offside," he said. "The VAR, having twice got it wrong in the semi-final, have got it wrong again on the biggest possible stage.
"What is the VAR for? You can't blame the players. It's an obvious error, there's not any doubt about it."
In the end, it was Ernie Merrick's one-time protege turned combatant Kevin Muscat who got the last laugh in a contest that started breathlessly but was shut down by Victory's experienced campaigners.
While the Jets dominated all the first-half statistics they couldn't overcome the all-powerful Thomas, whose gargantuan saves inspired his side to exorcise the ghosts of last season's grand-final penalty-shootout loss to Sydney FC. They went behind early when Leroy George's swooping free kick found the head of James Donachie, who knocked it down for Barbarouses to fire past Glen Moss via a deflection off Johnny Koutroumbis.
Replays showed Donachie - and two teammates - had been offside, yet the VAR remained silent.
The Jets responded swiftly, raining down on Victory's goal and navigating a way past every opponent bar the brick wall of Thomas.
The visiting custodian took a reflex dive to deny Roy O'Donovan's instinctive flick off a Koutroumbis cross.
Minutes later Thomas topped it, parrying away Riley McGree's would-be equaliser before recovering in time to divert Jason Hoffman's point-blank follow-up shot away to safety.
If not for those world-class efforts the Jets would at least have levelled the ledger, finishing a one-sided first half with 11 shots to three. McGree ran the midfield while Socceroo Dimi Petratos and Venezuelan trickster Ronny Vargas exposed Stefan Nigro on the left flank.
But they faded after the break as the Jets' early momentum fell victim to a staunch Victory defence run by Thomas Deng and James Donachie. The visitors utilised their big-stage experience to close down the game as James Troisi and Terry Antonis began to properly assert themselves. The latter was momentarily felled during an aerial clash with ex-Victory man Daniel Georgievski.
But it was O'Donovan who really came off worse for wear when he threw himself in the path of Besart Berisha to stop the ball rolling over the goal line and copped a stray elbow the face.
The Irish marksman soon had a swollen lump under his eye but clashed with Thomas soon after, trying to get direction on a header before delivering his horrible kick.