A hat-trick from Michelle Heyman helped Canberra United to a crucial 4-2 victory over Adelaide United at McKellar Park, a result that moves the Capital club level on points with fourth placed Melbourne Victory.
The treble from Heyman took the striker to seven goals in the last four matches and joint ownership of the lead in the Golden Boot race.
An injury to Ellie Brush led to the inclusion of Kennedy Faulknor in central defence, one of a trio of changes made by Njegosh Popovich to the team that beat Western Sydney Wanderers at McKellar Park last weekend.
The other changes saw Emma Ilijoski replace Sasha Grove and Keeley Richards come in for Chloe Lincoln in goal, Grove, and Lincoln away on international duty with the Young Matildas.
The hosts were handed a dream start as they took the lead in only the fourth minute of the match, awarded a penalty as Vesna Milivojevic advanced into the area and collided with an Adelaide defender.
Grace Maher was never going to pass up the opportunity from the spot and duly clattered home her fourth goal of the season giving visiting custodian Annalee Grove no chance.
It got even better for Canberra seven minutes later as they doubled their lead in rather fortuitous fashion.
A cross-field ball released Nickoletta Flannery with her cutback finding Vesna Milivojevic in space. The playmaker took a strike at goal, the ball ricocheting off a defender and then Heyman before nestling into the back of the Adelaide net.
Adelaide hit back in the 20th minute as Katie Bowler was sent free behind the home defence and confidently lifted a finish past the advancing Richards, and the Lady Reds suddenly discovered some momentum.
The hosts two-goal lead was restored after half an hour though and Flannery was heavily involved again. Operating from the right flank, the speedster slung over a devilish delivery that Heyman met flush to power a diving header past Worth.
But Adelaide were right back in it from the kick-off, winning a free-kick out wide from which Maruschka Waldus snuck in unopposed to glance a perfect header across Richards and into the far corner.
Canberra could have added a couple more before the break, Flannery heading over a gaping goal from close range and Laura Hughes being denied in a one-on-one by a good save from Worth after sprinting clear of the Adelaide defence, as a topsy-turvy half ended 3-2 in Canberra’s favour.
Popovich switched his personnel at the beginning of the second stanza, Wu Changshu introduced in place of Holly Murray, but it was Adelaide who came out of the changing rooms, dictating the tempo of the match.
Chances were at a premium in comparison to the opening 45 minutes, neither ‘keeper overly extended as the clock ticked over the three-quarter mark, Canberra sending on Chloe Middleton for Hughes in an attempt to reignite the attacking spark.
Middleton created Canberra’s best opening with a battling win in midfield freeing Flannery in on goal. However, with most of the target to aim for the United attacker was profligate, going for power rather than placement, and fired over the crossbar.
Heyman wasn’t to be denied though and, after Jale released the super-striker with a sensational pass over the top, the Liberty A-League’s leading scorer of all-time clinically despatched her 94th goal in the competition moving on to a dozen for the season.
Canberra United 4 (Maher 4’ (p), Heyman 11’, 31’, 76’) Adelaide United 2 (Bowler 20’, Waldus 32’)
Canberra United: 1. Keeley RICHARDS, 4. Holly MURRAY (9. WU Chengshu 46’), 5. Emma ILIJOSKI, 6. Laura HUGHES (14. Chloe MIDDLETON 66’), 10. Grace MAHER, 11. Grace JALE, 12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG, 16. Kennedy FAULKNOR, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC (24. Ellen GETT 80’), 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (3. Grace TARANTO 88’)
Subs not used: 22. Keely SEGAVCIC
Cards: YELLOW: 16. Kennedy FAULKNOR