Heart clinch 1-1 draw with Roar
A chance to reclaim the A-League ladder lead went begging for the Brisbane Roar as they were held to a 1-1 draw with an in-form Melbourne Heart at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
The Roar looked set to secure their fifth straight win when striker Besart Berisha was felled by Simon Colosimo and referee Ryan Shepheard pointed to the spot in stoppage time.
However, the majority of the 10,998-strong crowd were left pulling out their hair - along with Roar coach Ange Postecoglou - when Mohamed Adnan's effort was swatted away by a diving Clint Bolton.
Usually Henrique would be the man on the spot for the Roar - however the Brazilian was on the sideline beginning the start of a two-game ban for slapping Perth Glory's Jacob Burns.
The last time the Heart played in Brisbane early in December they made all the headlines after Jonatan Germano donned a Santa hat after scoring in a 2-1 win - part of a horror run of five-straight losses for the Roar.
And the Heart would have also felt festive on Friday night after limiting the A-League defending champions to a point - much to leaders Central Coast's relief.
Brisbane appeared to have turned their form around with four straight wins leading into the Friday night clash - but the Heart kept them honest with an impressive performance that belied their fifth placing with three rounds left.
The Roar were hoping to celebrate Postecoglou's 200th professional game by reclaiming top spot for the first time since mid-December with another win.
Remarkably Brisbane were in sight of leapfrogging Central Coast after the Mariners' lean run of four points from five games ensured their lead in the premiership race plummeted from 11 points to three.
And bolstered by the return of German playmaker Thomas Broich from a shoulder complaint, the Roar looked up to the task when Mitch Nichols netted in the 33rd minute.
Indeed fortune appeared on Brisbane's side when a Simon Colosimo cross ricocheted off Broich, sitting up nicely for Nichols to put away the opening goal.
However, Nichols limped off with a groin complaint and the Heart began turning it all around.
And by the 49th minute scores were level after Curtis Good's header off a corner following close shaves by teammates Eli Babalj and that man Germano.
It won't get any easier for the Roar as they look to complete three matches in nine days.
They start their AFC Champions League campaign on Tuesday against FC Tokyo, before playing Adelaide at home on Sunday week.
Eyebrows were raised when Adnan stepped up to the spot in place of Henrique instead of the A-League's leading goal scorer Berisha, who has a club record 17 to his name to date.
But Postecoglou had no regrets opting for Adnan, citing Berisha's sprayed penalty effort in their 1-1 draw with the Heart on January 21.
"They (critics) obviously missed Besh's last penalty - I think it ended up in the stands somewhere," he said.
"(Bahrain international) Mohamed has taken a number of penalties for his country - I will never be critical of someone who takes a penalty.
"It takes a lot of courage to take them - and it was a good save by Clint."
Postecoglou did not consider their draw as a missed opportunity to leapfrog the Mariners after adopting a long term view with the Champions League in sight.
"I think we are travelling along well. People might look at the (A-League) ladder and say we have three games to go but by my reckoning we have about 12 to go," he said.
Meanwhile, Heart coach John van `t Schip said the result felt like a win after heaping praise on Bolton.
"It felt like a win, but if you take away that penalty it was a well deserved draw," he said.
"For me I think the Roar are still the favourite for the championship ...(but) we have closed the gap - I think we took a big step tonight."
And he added with a laugh: "He (Bolton) seems to like having penalties against him because then he can become the hero.
"He is an imposing goalkeeper when you have to take a penalty. Henrique wasn't there so someone else had to step up."