Red-hot Adelaide United catapulted into third-spot on the A-League ladder and made a grand statement by convincingly defeating the Central Coast Mariners 2-0 at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
With an eye-catching performance against a team that used to have their measure, the Reds leapfrogged the Mariners and Melbourne Victory on the table to maintain their impressive form surge, courtesy of first-half goals from Marcelo Carrusca and Fabio Ferreira.
With Carrusca and Ferreira creating the play and finishing in style, Sergio Cirio showing his sheer class and Bruce Djite - playing his 100th A-League game for the club - looking dangerous in attack, the Reds completely commanded proceedings.
Their slickness was all the more impressive considering it came on the back of Adelaide's wettest February day in 40 years, the City of Churches copping an unseasonal and relentless pelting, which resulted in a slippery Hindmarsh surface.
At one stage the hosts owned over 90 percent of the possession but, initially at least, battled to convert their superiority into bona fide chances.
Against the flow early, Mariners striker Bernie Ibini had the first real crack at goal, catching the Reds defence out of position on the overlap but sending his shot well high, a miss that proved costly.
Ferreira's pacy run down the right-hand side in the 13th minute looked electric but amounted to nothing on the scoreboard, before Djite finally found an opening in the 17th, after some nice work from Watson, but had his left-foot rifle deflected by the Central Coast defence.
Adelaide were pressing hard and they were finally rewarded on 33 minutes through Carrusca.
Osama Malik's bunted shot took a ricochet off the Mariners defence and landed in the lap of Carrusca, who stopped, steadied and poked it home with his left past Mariners goalkeeper Liam Reddy's outstretched right hand.
A Reds fan let off a flare in celebration, the offending item duly confiscated by security staff but not before filling the ground with a smoky haze for the next few minutes.
The Mariners regained some belated ascendancy late in the half with Matthew Simon troubling the woodwork with two bites of the cherry from close range.
However, on the cusp of the half-time whistle Ferreira doubled United's advantage and joined Jeronimo Neumann as Adelaide's equal-leading scorer this campaign with his sixth goal of the season, finishing in style on the counterattack after a series of eye-catching one-touch passes.
Ferreira rightly copped a yellow card for removing his shirt in jubilation but the Reds were unbowed, gleefully taking their two-goal lead into the sheds.
The second half saw Adelaide showcase some of the most rollicking, attacking football of the season, the Reds looking every inch title winners despite not adding to their half-time tally.
After Eugene Galekovic dived full-length to save Ibini's curling effort in the 50th minute, it was all Adelaide.
Carrusca, Cirio and Ferreira took turns in trying to embarrass the Mariners with a combination of deft touch, deadly flair and supreme skill.
Only a combination of Reddy's capability in goals and some questionable sideline refereeing prevented the margin from blowing out.
Substitute Awer Mabil used his pace to run into what appeared a fine goal in the 76th minute but mid-celebration was deemed off-side, television replays suggesting the young winger was more than a little unlucky.
Mabil had another good look in the 90th when he turned John Hutchinson inside-out but lofted his shot high as the Reds, with Michael Marrone and Jeronimo active after coming off the bench, sprinted to the finish line with panache.
Adelaide United 2 (Carrusca 33, Ferreira 45+2)
Central Coast Mariners 0
Crowd: 6980 @ Coopers Stadiumcomments