Adelaide United will return from their FIFA Club World Cup sojourn in Japan still on top of Australia's A-League after their main rivals faltered in this weekend's pre-Christmas round.
Melbourne Victory, the 2007 champions, lost their chance to leapfrog Adelaide to the top of the standings when they crashed 4-2 to last-placed Newcastle Jets in Newcastle. Newcastle's Matt Thompson scored a hat-trick as the defending champions broke a seven-game winless streak and posted their first victory since 18 October.
Korea Republic import Song Jin-Hyung scored his first goal for the Jets, while Danny Allsopp and Brazilian Ney Fabiano pulled two back for Melbourne in the second half. To add further to Melbourne's woes, the Victory relinquished second place to the inactive Queensland Roar, who gained a spot on superior goal difference.
Central Coast Mariners also missed their chance to make a move on Adelaide when they lost out to a second-minute Shane Smeltz strike as rejuvenated Wellington Phoenix continued their push for a finals place. The former AFC Wimbledon striker powered home the only goal of the mid-table fixture before the Phoenix spent most of the rest of the game holding out the Mariners.
Sydney FC's season plunged to a new low as Perth Glory boosted their finals hopes with a stunning 4-1 win at the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday. Goals to Adriano Pellegrino, Wayne Srhoj and own goals by Sydney defenders Antony Golec and Robbie Middleby helped Perth secure a vital victory which moved them to within one win of the top four.
Sydney, whose only goal came from Stuart Musialik, were booed by their own fans at half-time and full time and now need a significant form reversal over the last five rounds to reach the February finals. Former Socceroo striker John Aloisi missed two great scoring chances in the first half.