NOTHING gets the juices flowing like a final-round showdown.
Two teams, 90 minutes. All or nothing.
The 26 rounds up to this point, though keeping statisticians busy, mean little.
It comes down to one game. Triumph or defeat.
For the Newcastle Jets the equation is simple.
Do not lose to Sydney FC and they are through to the A-League play-offs.
Win and they could jump to fifth place and a slightly easier passage through the finals.
The Jets and Sydney are not the only combatants facing a pressure-cooker final fixture.
In an intriguing closing day, teams positioned one to seven could occupy different places come 7.30 Sunday night.
The Roar and Mariners are locked in a battle for the Premiers Plate.
Perth and Wellington are duking it out for third and fourth.
The Heart are guaranteed a finals berth but could drop from fifth to sixth.
Of the those in the firing line, the Jets and Sydney are the only two who meet head-on.
It is a situation that Jets midfielder Tarek Elrich hopes will bring the best out of his team.
‘‘I don’t think the competition has ever been as close as this season,’’ Elrich said.
‘‘A few weeks ago a lot of pundits were saying it was going to come down to the last round, and it has.
‘‘These are the sorts of games, as a player, you love playing.
‘‘It is a final for us. If we treat it any lighter than that we will make it tough for ourselves.
‘‘We plan to go out there with all guns blazing and hopefully get a good win.’’
Sunday’s clash at Allianz Stadium is not the first time the Jets have entered the final round needing a result.
Apart from 2008-09, when they already had the wooden spoon in their keeping, the last round has taken on great proportions.
In 2006-07, Gary van Egmond’s maiden season in charge, the Jets entered round 21 in the then eight-team competition outside the finals in fifth place on 27 points, a point adrift of Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar.
In one of the most memorable nights at Hunter Stadium, the Jets thrashed minor premiers Melbourne Victory 4-0 in front of 19,000 fans.
They then had the joy of watching Sydney and Brisbane fight out a 1-all draw the next night.
In the wash-up, the Jets jumped to third, Sydney, who had been deducted three points for breaching player contract regulations, took fourth on goal difference, leaving the Roar on the outer.
But it hasn’t always been a positive result. In fact, in the six regular-season finales leading up to Sunday the Jets have recorded two wins and four losses.
Elrich has featured in the past four.
‘‘We had chances where we could have won and probably gone higher into the finals,’’ the Jets’ most-capped player said. ‘‘You don’t really think about what you have done in the past.
‘‘There is one game I am thinking about and that is Sydney this weekend.’’
The fact the Jets thrashed Sydney 5-3 on their home turf at Moore Park six weeks ago has been deemed as irrelevant.
‘‘We have to put everything that has happened between us and Sydney behind us, whether it was a 5-2 win or 2-1 loss,’’ Elrich said.
‘‘We know it all comes down to this game.’’
Circumstances this time around mean a draw will be sufficient for the Jets to secure sixth. But that approach does not feature in Elrich’s thinking.
‘‘We have never been a team to park the bus,’’ he said.
‘‘We like to attack and get at teams. Whether it is home or away, nothing changes.
‘‘We need to win this game and take some better form into the finals.
‘‘I don’t think we have been bad but our last two results have not been the greatest.
‘‘Hopefully we can get a win and get back on that good run.
‘‘Once you make the finals it’s anyone’s game.
‘‘But first we have to get there.’’