YET more impressive touches have been added to Melbourne's famed sporting precinct. From the MCG car park, Heart and Victory fans walked over a new bridge that took them past the recently completed extensions to Melbourne Park. Right to the gates of AAMI Stadium where, 30 minutes before kick-off, the excitement was palpable - and entirely justified.
From first touch to final whistle, a wonderfully intimate stadium would throb and gyrate with the rhythms of an absorbing game. Two minutes into extra-time, it would explode as Archie Thompson poached the winning goal.
Two weekends. Two vibrant, engaging A-League derbies drawing similar crowds of about 26,000. Occasions that make you wonder not why there are two teams in Sydney and Melbourne, but why it did not happen sooner.
In his former role as NRL boss, FFA chief executive David Gallop had believed, from the start, the A-League needed two teams in its biggest markets to foster intense rivalries.
The derbies, with their packed stadiums and heightened emotions, might still be the A-league's exceptions outside the finals. But they are also the showcases of the game's potential. Importantly, on Saturday night, the atmosphere in and around the stadium was raucous, not threatening. Yes, flares were ignited. Although, thankfully, none were thrown onto the pitch. Just the inane mischief-making of a few parasites feeding off a wonderful occasion.
After an unfair media spotlight was thrown on the Sydney derby because of the work of a handful of fools, terms such as ''passion'' and ''soccer culture'' were misappropriated by some misguided fans and used as alibis for the worst extremes of crowd behaviour.
Such retrograde thinking demeans the wonderful spirit of the vast majority of the fans at both derbies, and also the fans who created a raucous backdrop for Western Sydney Wanderers' 6-1 demolition of Adelaide on Friday night. That carnivale moved Craig Foster to claim the crowd of less than 10,000 at Parramatta Stadium creates ''the premier sporting atmosphere in the nation''.
It is an opinion to which the combative Foster is fully entitled. Yet, somehow, such an intentionally provocative appraisal seems intended to set soccer apart from other sports, rather than acknowledging the game is part of a broader sporting landscape. Played out in Melbourne's sporting heartland, the Victory-Heart derby gains significant context from the other grand sporting events contested within a few hundred metres.
Gallop watched the game with Carlton coach Michael Malthouse. ''He was pretty impressed with the night, and particularly with atmosphere,'' said Gallop. ''It might be unparalleled in Australian sport.'' High praise from Malthouse, who regularly coaches before crowds of 80,000-plus.
It was a night of passion, but not one on which it was necessary to claim that emotion as soccer's alone. Rather, the passion experienced as Thompson's winner just cleared the line was like the passion felt across the bridge when Dennis Lillee knocked over Viv Richards on Boxing Day 1981. The passion of 90,000 watching Collingwood and Carlton.
Of course, in the throes of sporting passion, you don't need a word to describe your feelings. As on Saturday night, the moment of triumph or despair is felt, not spoken.
The last couple of weeks has seen the very best of the A-League and its true fans. It is a competition that has become a significant part of Australia's shared passion for sport.