Wellington Phoenix 4
Brisbane Roar 1
What a difference a year makes. This time 12 months ago, the Phoenix were a basket case, in the midst of a losing streak and dealing with the walkout of their assistant coach, followed by one of their star players. And things only got worse.
Now — well, Christmas doesn't get much better for long-suffering Phoenix fans, as they watched their team thump the Brisbane Roar 4-1 to record a third successive victory for the first time since March 2015.
There were some nervy moments — and the visitors should have taken the lead just after halftime — but the Phoenix fully deserved the three points with a barnstorming final 20 minutes during which they simply overwhelmed the Roar.
David Williams made a big impact off the bench and scored the crucial goal to break the deadlock.
And Sarpreet Singh was superb, with some bewitching touches and vision, before his brilliant free kick in added time.
This was a crucial result ahead of a tough away stretch. It keeps the Phoenix in the top six and builds on the burgeoning belief among coach Mark Rudan's side.
The big test will come against the better A-League sides but Wellington's improvement has been exponential in the past month.
Brisbane were always likely to present a tough challenge. They've had a terrible start to the season and were coming off three consecutive losses but they still have some quality compared with the winless Central Coast Mariners outfit the Phoenix beat a week earlier.
And the Queensland team had nothing to lose and little expectation as they crossed the Tasman.
It was the opposite scenario for the Phoenix. After consecutive wins, achieved from a high energy, pressing style and an attacking verve that wasn't apparent the first month of the season, they were overwhelming favourites.
The first goal was achieved in a slightly bizarre manner. Tom Doyle hurled a long throw into the Roar penalty area that former Stoke City fullback Rory Delap would have been proud of.
As Stephen Taylor created mayhem beside the near post, the ball flicked off the head of one Roar defender, then another, over the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net from an acute angle in the 34th minute.
That released some pressure for the Phoenix and also fired up the home crowd, with a bumper Yellow Fever contingent fuelled by their annual Christmas pre-game pub crawl.
Other chances came and went before Brisbane came up with a superb sucker punch just before halftime.
After the Roar made inroads down the right, the ball was cut back for Henrique to sweep home in the 47th minute. The Brazilian showed superb technique to lift the ball into the far corner of Filip Kurto's net but the hosts were guilty of switching off.
The Roar should have taken the lead five minutes into the second half but Adam Taggart tripped over as he was about to apply the finishing touch six yards from goal after a crisp Brisbane move.
Williams was injected for the last half hour, replacing Nathan Burns, whose A-League goal drought now extends past 2000 minutes, and changed the game.
Krishna almost took the Phoenix into the lead with a flashing header — denied for offside — before Williams curled home after a Singh charge towards the area in the 75th minute. Krishna sealed the points five minutes later with a well-taken penalty, after Doyle was taken out following a corner melee.
Then Singh had the final say, curling an angled free kick in at the foot of the near post through a parting two-man Brisbane wall.
Wellington Phoenix 4 (A. Papadopoulos own goal 35, D. Williams 75, R. Krishna 80 pen, S. Singh 90+3)
Brisbane Roar 1 (Henrique 45+1). Halftime: 1-1