A DEPLETED Melbourne Victory side did enough to hold the Newcastle Jets to an exciting 1-1 draw in at Hunter Stadium on Friday night.
The Jets held sway in the opening half and duly went ahead when Victory forward Mitch Nichols deflected a Craig Goodwin free kick into his own goal three minutes before the break.
Melbourne equalised shortly after the restart with a swift counter attack that saw Andrew Nabbout poke home. Both sides had chances to win the contest but neither could find a decisive finish and had to be content with a point apiece.
The Jets enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening stages but their only real sights on goal came from Ruben Zadkovich with the former Derby County man blazing a couple of long-ranch opportunities over the bar.
The Victory played on the counter and had their first chance to open the scoring when Kosta Barbarouses broke the off-side trap and but couldn't find a way past Jets goal-keeper Mark Birighitti.
Craig Goodwin then went close for Newcastle in the 38th minute when his low free-kick from 25 metres out went through the wall and forced a sharp diving save from Nathan Coe with the rebound hacked clear by Pablo Contreras.
The young winger's next free kick proved to more pivotal with his dangerous cross into the box flicking off the head of an unfortunate Mitch Nichols who steered the ball into his own net to see the Jets take a 1-0 lead into the break.
The home side looked like they they might extend their lead early in the second half when James Brown was put into a prime scoring space after a swift counter attack but he sprayed his shot widely over the crossbar.
The Victory made their opponents pay immediately with Barbarouses breaking down the right before sending a lovely cross for Andrew Nabbout to poke it into the goal.
Gary van Egmond then brought on James Virgili for Brown and he almost had an immediate impact when he whipped in a dangerous cross to Goodwin but he skimmed what was a free header wide of the far post.
The game started to open up with both sides finding plenty of space in midfield with Barbarouses and James Triosi having half chances for the Victory while Burns and Zadkovich both saw good chances inside the box blocked by a desperate Melbourne defence.
The hosts finished the game the stronger with substitute Michael Bridges finding space to fire from an angle but Contreras deflected it wide.
Burns had a chance to win the contest four minutes from time when he streaked into the box but his blocked shot ballooned agonisingly over the crossbar.
Substitute Archie Thompson almost snatched victory at the death when he engineered a vicious shot on the turn that forced a fantastic reflex save from Birighitti who dived full length to push the ball around the post and earn his side a share of the points.
Newcastle Jets 1
Melbourne Victory 1
Crowd 12,270 at Hunter Stadium