Western Sydney Wanderers have secured a Westfield W-League Finals Series berth for the first time in their history following a 3-2 win over Perth Glory on Saturday night.
American duo Sam Staab and Kristen Hamilton did the damage for the Wanderers in a three-goal first-half blitz at the WML Stadium in Bunbury as Dean Heffernan's side survived a late scare to end a three-match losing run and secure their maiden Finals Series appearance.
Assisted by a strong wind in the first half, Staab drove home her second goal of the season in just the second minute, before compatriot Hamilton marked her return from suspension with a brace to seemingly seal the win prior to the half-hour.
However, Celia Jiménez pulled a goal back for the Glory early in the second half, before Morgan Andrews struck again in the closing minutes set-up a grand stand finish but ultimately could not find an equaliser.
One thing the result did split was the Golden Boot race - with Hamilton and Andrews moving level with Natasha Dowie (Melbourne Victory) and Remy Siemsen (Sydney FC) on seven goals atop the scoring charts this season.
The result moves the Wanderers five points clear of fifth-placed Brisbane Roar - but behind cross-town rivals Sydney FC on goal difference - to finalise the Westfield W-League top four.
The Wanderers will tackle newly crowned Premiers Melbourne City next Sunday for a place in the Westfield W-League Grand Final.
Staab gives the Wanderers a flying start
With goal difference key to determining the Finals Series picture, the Wanderers made the best of starts in just the third minute.
The breakthrough came as Kyra Cooney-Cross' corner kick caught the wind and threatened to drop in at the back post. Glory defender Shannon May deflected it clear but only as far as the lurking Sam Staab, who banged it straight back at goal to open accounts.
Corner delivers once more as Wanderers are in again
There was no respite for Eliza Campbell in the Glory goal as the Wanderers continued to threaten - Ella Mastrantonio firing over the bar from Cortnee Vine's cross before Cooney-Cross saw her solid hit tipped over the bar.
But it was a corner that again proved the route to goal as Cooney-Cross' 11th minute delivery this time went to the near post where Kristen Hamilton steered in a well-placed header to double the lead.
Glory response denied by the woodwork
The hosts were in danger of being blown out of the water in their season closer but went about righting the ship just a minute later as Leticia McKenna played Celia Jiménez into a promising position.
With her marker still lurking, the Spaniard did well to open up space for shot that was good enough to get past diving Wanderers goalkeeper Abby Smith only to bounce back off the post.
More set piece joy sees the Wanderers nab a third
Another set-piece for the visitors and the outcome was the same as the Wanderers delivered their third goal inside the opening half-hour.
This time it was Mastrantonio with the delivery from a free-kick that evaded the bulk of the tussle in the box to meet the goalside Hamilton at point blank range - and she made no mistake with the header for her second of the match.
Further chances elude both sides before half-time
There was no let-up in the attacking approach as the first-half drew to a close but the margin remained unchanged prior to the break.
Mastrantonio fired a free-kick over the bar in the 35th minute for the visitors but it was the Glory that were the more frustrated as Celia headed over from a promising position soon after and Morgan Andrews also missed the target with a header on 42 minutes before she saw a goal rubbed out for offside in injury time.
Glory pull one back after the hour
Running with the wind in the second half, the Glory finally had their break through shortly after the hour mark - and again it was a set-piece that proved the catalyst.
After Smith foiled the hosts with a pair of strong saves from corner kicks, but the third time proved a charm as Kim Carroll squared the ball up for Celia, who saw her first effort blocked but found the back of the net from the rebound.
Wanderers can't add to their haul
Looking to restore their margin, the Wanderers fashioned a number of chances midway through the second stanza but simply could not find the back of the net again as Vine sent a 68th minute effort wide before Cooney-Cross strike a minute later was saved.
Shortly after Staab had an opportunity to add to her opener but saw her header flash past the post.
Andrews sets up grand stand finish
The Glory were doing little better with their ensuing chances - Caitlin Doeglas firing wide twice in the final quarter hour - but just as the Wanderers looked like they would get home in a canter they broke through again.
After proving their greatest threat for much of the contest, Andrews finally had her goal in the 83rd minute as she won the battle to meet Celia's floated cross with a well-placed header.
Westfield W-League Semi Final
Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
Sunday, 15 March 2020
Kick-off: 1.30pm AEDT
Venue: ABABD Stadium
Broadcast: FOX Sports, ABC
Stream: Kayo Sports, MyFootball App, ABC iView