Archie Thompson's comeback has helped Melbourne Victory soar out of a slump to hand 10-man Newcastle a five-goal A-League hiding.
Thompson, sidelined by a hamstring injury as the Victory lost their past three games, was pivotal at AAMI Park on Sunday as they thrashed the depleted Jets 5-0 to climb to third.
Coach Ange Postecoglou acknowledged it was no coincidence, saying Thompson not only delivered plenty himself but his presence gave teammates more freedom.
"Obviously the opposition have to pay attention to him and it makes us look more threatening in different areas," Postecoglou said.
"Probably the last few weeks because of absences of players we've been pretty easy to shut down."
Marco Rojas was one who relished less attention.
He scored the first goal, after being played into space by Thompson.
The New Zealander then set up the second from a corner kick, before Thompson earned a penalty, allowing Mark Milligan to notch the third, all within the opening 30 minutes.
By early in the second half, Newcastle's Taylor Regan was sent off after giving away his second penalty and earning his second yellow card, allowing Milligan to make it 4-0.
Rojas then completed the rout with some fast footwork to score his second.
Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond, who rested strikers Emile Heskey and Michael Bridges and was missing Zenon Caravella and Sam Gallaway to injury and James Brown and James Virgili to illness, said his side still should have shown more.
He said defenders ignored instructions by playing too high, allowing the Victory attackers too much space.
"I was screaming," he said.
He was critical of the scheduling under which the Jets were coming off a midweek clash in Wellington.
"It didn't help but I'm not going to use it as an excuse," van Egmond said.
"I really felt today we could have got something out of this game.
"It's just certain positioning and certain decisions that people made at moments which let us down."
He now wants the fifth-placed Jets to bounce back against Perth on Friday night the way the Victory rebounded against his own team.
Postecoglou hoped the Victory could carry that form to the finals.
"If we win the next four going into finals I wouldn't want to be playing us," he said.