THE Newcastle Jets are in danger of dropping out of the A-League top six this weekend after being outclassed 2-1 by Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.
An injury-time goal from Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich gave the Jets a glimmer of hope after the home side led 2-0, but Newcastle's last-ditch fightback was in vain.
Newcastle were left clinging to sixth rung on the competition ladder with 23 points. But Sydney host Brisbane on Sunday and, with both teams on 21 points, if there is a winner in that game the Jets will drop to seventh with seven games to play before the finals.
Did you miss David Lowe's live blog of the game? Catch up here and make sure you join the Streaming Jets this Friday night during the Jets v Heart clash.
The Wanderers, who ended Newcastle's five-game unbeaten run, climbed to second with 38 points after becoming the first team this season to string together five successive wins.
They are four points behind frontrunners Central Coast and two ahead of third-placed Melbourne Victory.
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, Melbourne Heart increased the pressure on Newcastle by beating Perth 2-0 to leapfrog the Jets into fifth spot.
Newcastle host the Heart at Hunter Stadium on Friday in a game that shapes as crucial to the play-off aspirations of both teams.
With a vocal crowd of 10,589 cheering them on, the Wanderers grabbed a priceless psychological advantage in first-half injury time when Dutch winger Youssouf Hersi opened the scoring.
Hersi, who was a regular threat to Newcastle's defence, pounced when the Jets blocked an Aaron Mooy free kick.
Newcastle keeper Mark Birighitti dived to save Hersi's powerful strike, but the ball deflected, looped backwards and spun into his goal.
There was a brief drama when celebrating Wanderers fans caused a boundary fence to collapse.
Birighitti's heroics had kept Newcastle in the game up until that point.
In the 25th minute, he foiled Hersi in a one-on-one situation and 13 minutes later he produced a remarkable save with his boot when Mark Bridge appeared certain to score.
At the other end of the pitch, Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic and skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley combined in the 19th minute to spoil back-to-back chances for Sam Gallaway and Emile Heskey.
Bridge iced the result in the 84th minute with a sensational solo goal after turning Jets defender Josh Mitchell inside out. It was his eighth goal of the season.
The Wanderers fielded four former Novocastrians in their squad - Bridge, Covic, Topor-Stanley and defender Adam D'Apuzzo.
Searching for an equaliser, Jets coach Gary van Egmond injected Socceroos representative Adam Taggart into proceedings in the 62nd minute, replacing Virgili.
Van Egmond promoted midfielder Zenon Caravella to the starting line-up for the first time since his transfer from Adelaide three weeks ago.
Defender Sam Gallaway was reinstated after missing last week's 2-all draw against Sydney FC through suspension.