ANGUS Thurgate scored his maiden A-League goal to snatch the Newcastle Jets a spirit-lifting 3-2 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The 19-year-old, making his seventh appearance this season and first since round 19, swooped on a loose ball in the 82nd minute and buried a shot into the top right corner to break a 2-all deadlock.
Coach Ernie Merrick said this week that he intended to use the final four games to build for the future.
As well as Thurgate, fellow young gun Joe Champness was a constant threat down the left in an eye-catching 67-minute shift.
"It was great to see Gus take the goal so well," Merrick said. " He picked his spot. It was very important that we performed for the fans. The first 15 minutes wasn't very good, it was very negative. Then we started to come into the game. Once they scored, we lifted and I thought we just got better and better. In the second half we controlled most of the game and could have scored a couple."
In the end, the Jets had to do it the hard way. They trailed 1-0 at half time after a Rashid Mahazi header in the 43rd minute.
Roy O'Donovan, who is in talks about a new deal, equalised in the 63rd minute.
Dimi Petratos put the home side ahead with a freakish goal from a corner in the 70th minute, which was cancelled out three minutes later by a stinging effort from Keanu Baccus.
The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Jets and gives them a faint hope of making the play-offs. They remain in seventh on 29 points, five behind Adelaide, who host Wellington on Sunday. There are three rounds remaining after this one.
"All we can do is play our best football and try to win every game," Merrick said. "Unfortunately we are in a position where other teams have to lose. Adelaide have to lose just about every game and that is not going to happen. We will start building now for next year and we have some good talent out there."
Merrick made two changes to the side humbled 4-1 by Wellington. Ronny Vargas returned from a hamstring injury in the No.10 role and Champness started on the left in place of Jair, who was dropped from the squad all together.
With little at stake, both teams showed plenty of attacking intent in an end-to-end opener 45 minutes.
Oriol Riera thought he had put the visitor ahead in the seventh minute when he slotted home a rebound but was flagged for offside.
The Jets, after a pedestrian start, started to work their way into the game.
O'Donovan hit the side-netting in the 12th minute and Champness, making his first start in a year, caused the Wanderers' defence problems down the left.
He set up a golden opportunity for O'Donovan in the 30th minute, slashing down the flank and delivering a cross to the far post.
The ball was at an awkward height for the Irishman, who jumped into the air to stab the ball only for it to glance off his leg and go wide.
Despite dominating for large periods, the home side went to the break down 1-0 due to slack marking inside the box.
Alexander Baumjohan swung a freekick from the left into the area where Mahazi got in front of Daniel Georgievski and turned a header into the goal.
Kaine Sheppard replaced Vargas (ankle) at the break.
After a cagey opening 15 minutes of the second half, O'Donovan got the Jets back on level terms.
Georgievski made a run down the left and found the striker unmarked at the top of the box. The Irishman had enough time to take a touch and unleash a stinging right-foot effort into the left corner.
All of a sudden the Jets were alive.
Petratos had a chance a minute later but couldn't lift a lob over Vedran Janjetovic.
He made amends a minute later with a freakish effort.
From a corner on the left, Petratos curled a ball into the box, which was headed for the goalmouth only to swing late and beat a desperate attempt by the keeper to knock it clear.
The lead was short-lived.
Keanu Baccus hit back for the visitors with a thunderbolt from 20 metres, which went in off the underside of the bar.
The win completed a clean sweep for the Jets against Wanderers for the first time in history, following a 2-0 triumph in round five and 5-1 rout in round 17.
"Markus Babbel (Wanderers coach) came up to me at full-time and said 'you are a really nice guy but you are beginning to piss me off now'," Merrick said laughing. "He is a good coach and when he puts his mark on the team by signing the type of players he wants, and when they move into the new training premises and he gets money for a big marquee player, I think they will do really well. Hopefully we are up there with them next year."