Newcastle have pushed Sydney all the way in an epic extra-time 3-2 W-League semi-final loss despite being a player down for 75 minutes at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
The Jets, in the finals for the first time in nine years, were down 2-0 when defender Hannah Brewer was given a straight red card in the second minute of first-half injury-time for a foul on a runaway Lisa De Vanna outside the penalty area.
Brewer was deemed to be the last defender despite centre-back Natasha Prior running alongside the pair at the time of the challenge.
Newcastle, though, shocked Sydney in the 53rd minute when Arin Gilliland scored with a back-post header off an Emily Van Egmond corner kick.
With first-half scorer Cailtlin Foord off at half-time with a foot injury, Sydney still looked likely to extend their lead and progress to the grand final but the Jets held firm before substitute Tara Andrews’ heroics in the second minute of stoppage time.
Andrews’ pass put Gilliland on goal and her shot was blocked but not controlled. Gilliland regained possession and passed to Katie Stengel who found an unmarked Andrews for the equalising strike.
A stunned home side responded through De Vanna in the eighth minute of 30 minutes of extra time when the Matildas legend finished a one-on-one chance off a counterattacking run from defender Emily Sonnett from a Jets corner.
It came after Stengel had a shot knocked wide. A tired Newcastle continued to press for an equaliser while goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom made great saves to keep them in the hunt.
Captain Van Egmond said the red card call “was just football, and that happens, but I’m just really proud of the girls today, to fight back right until the end”.
“It’s been a really enjoyable season for us here at Newcastle,” she added.
On the second-half revival, she said: “Obviously we had some work to do and credit to the girls, they came out with the right mindset and we got two back, but unfortunately we copped a third in extra-time.
“But I’m just super proud of the team and the club in general.”
In regular time, Newcastle had the better of the opening minutes and had chances when Brewer’s shot off a turnover was tipped wide and Van Egmond’s strike went over the crossbar.
However, it was Sydney, through brilliance from Matildas star Foord, who scored first in the ninth minute.
Off a ball from the top from De Vanna, Foord eluded two defenders with skill before a well-placed strike beat Eckerstrom.
Sydney pushed hard for a second against a sluggish Jets and Kylie Ledbrook’s powerful strike was denied by Eckerstrom’s reflex block in the 31st minute.
Ledbrook, though, could not be denied in the 35th when she hit a shot on the run from distance to score.
Sydney will play the winners of Sunday’s Brisbane v Melbourne City semi-final in the decider next week.