A goal two minutes into added time has given Central United the advantage in their head-to-head dual with Papatoetoe for the NRF Men’s Championship title.
Matt Guthrie’s late goal salvaged a 3-3 draw for Central at Papakura City’s McLennan Park, a point that could prove vital in the race for the title.
It means Central can potentially finish on 50 points if they win their two remaining games while Papatoetoe’s maximum haul will be 49.
The battle for the title is going to the wire and will be decided next Saturday (September 17) when both title candidates play their last fixtures.
Central also play a catch-up game on Wednesday (September 14) against South Auckland Rangers.
Playing with a 3pm kick-off, Papatoetoe boosted their chances of title success with an 8-2 win against Te Atatu, giving them a significant goal difference advantage.
If Central were to lose their 5pm match at Papakura, Papatoetoe would become favourites for the title.
With 10 minutes to go at Papakura, that looked entirely possible.
Campbell Morling had given Papakura an early lead, scoring after 13 minutes.
Martin Ishigaki levelled for Central midway through the first half, and the sides turned around tied 1-1.
Papakura then took the initiative in the second spell, taking a 3-1 lead through Munit Krishna and Ryan Martin.
But Central forced their way back into the reckoning with a goal from Daniel Backman six minutes from time.
And then, two minutes into stoppage time, Guthrie became United’s saviour.
Papatoetoe show no mercy in 8-2 mauling of Te Atatu
Earlier, and knowing that goal difference might prove crucial in the final placings, Papatoetoe showed no mercy to Te Atatu as they raced to a 3-0 lead by half-time and then added five more goals in the second half at Te Atatu Peninsula Park.
Ash Gower-Rudman opened the scoring for Papatoetoe in the 16th minute.
Ahmad Alshamsi doubled their lead midway through the half, before Gower-Rudman added his second.
Six minutes after the restart, Papatoetoe stretched their lead to 4-0 through Shalvin Prasad.
Three minutes later, Iwa Shaker scored.
In the 57th minute, Gower-Rudman completed his hat-trick to increase the margin to six goals.
Te Atatu staged a fightback, scoring twice through Mitchell Long in the 64th minute, and then through Kyal Wells in the 70th minute.
But Papatoetoe surged again, and substitute Stephen McCroskie scored in the 74th minute, a few minutes after coming off the bench.
Shaker wrapped things up with Papatoetoe’s eighth goal with a minute to go.
Game played on Thursday September 8, 2022
Uni-Mount Bohemian 1 (Luc Hamill 9′)
South Auckland Rangers 0
Game played on Friday September 9, 2022
Ranui Swanson 3 (Daniel Faure 32′, Nathaniel Hastings 41′, John Mudwanga 87′)
Lynn-Avon United 2 (Ryan Cozett 49′, 90+2′)
Games played on Saturday September 10, 2022
Te Atatu 2 (Mitchell Long 64′, Kyal Wells 70′)
Papatoetoe 8 (Ash Gower-Rudman 16′, 38′, 57′, Ahmad Alshamsi 26′, Shalvin Prasad 51′, Iwa Shaker 54′, 89′, Stephen McCroskie 74′)
Papakura City 3 (Campbell Morling 13′, Munit Krishna 59′, Ryan Martin 67′)
Central United 3 (Martin Ishigaki 23′, Daniel Backman 84′, Matt Guthrie 90’+2′)
Remaining fixtures for the two top teams:
Game to be played on Wednesday September 14, 2022
Central United v South Auckland Rangers
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu South, 7.30pm
Games to be played on Saturday September 17, 2022
Papatoetoe v Papakura City
Murdoch Park, Papatoetoe, 3pm
Central United v Ranui Swanson
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu South, 3pm