A draw against a potent Melbourne Victory outfit has laid the foundations of Canberra United's battle to lift into the W-League's top four, as an equaliser from Nicki Flannery kept its finals hopes alive.
Vicki Linton's side came back from behind to hold Victory to a 1-all draw at Epping Stadium on Sunday, securing a crucial point at the business end of the season.
It means Canberra stays fifth on the W-League ladder, with the club left to rue a missed opportunity to strengthen its finals bid with only four rounds remaining.
With the high-flying Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar yet to come, forward Flannery admitted the mathematical equation was a tough one but was optimistic United could use the draw for momentum.
"We'll take that point in building momentum for the weeks to come, it's really important we just keep working on all the little things we've identified in the match," Flannery said.
"Points are really important going into the end of the season. It was only one point versus a win so I think for us we can't get stuck on the result.
"We have to work on our individual performances and bringing those together. I feel like we had our fair share of chances that we could have capitalised on. It's going to be tough, but this is a really important point away from home that we can build momentum on heading into the final rounds."
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
It was very much a match of two halves, with the hosts controlling the first period as Lisa De Vanna and Kyra Cooney-Cross spearheaded an onslaught on goal.
Canberra looked flat under Victory's early assault, fortunate to still be on level terms at half-time with only 41.3 per cent of possession - most of which they struggled to hold.
Defenders Kayla Ann Morrison and Claudia Bunge kept Michelle Heyman quiet, blocking her threat by limiting her space in the final third.
Victory's attack was relentless in comparison, with evergreen De Vanna, Cooney-Cross and Angela Beard linking well to penetrate through United's defence from multiple fronts.
Their opening goal came out of nowhere in the ninth minute when Beard sent a lob into the back of the net, much to the bewilderment of goalkeeper Keeley Richards who got her bearings all wrong.
"I was very surprised it went in," Beard told Fox Sports at half-time.
"I feel like I have a lot of space out there, I'm really trying to get forward in attack. It's my first goal for Victory so it's exciting."
It left Canberra searching for an answer which came on the stroke of half-time via Flannery, who evaded a defender and slid the ball past goalkeeper Gabriela Garton to level the score.
The equaliser doubled as the perfect birthday celebration for the United striker, who turned 22 on Friday.
"It was kind of nice, I didn't really expect that one," she smiled.
"I'm pretty happy, though, when I'm close to the goal it's my responsibility for the team to try and step up. It was a great ball by Bianca [Galic]. It was just really helpful for the team going into half-time.
"We had to organise our midfield, defence and lines [in the second half]. For Michelle and I, the gaps between us in the midfield were a bit too deep.
"Personally, I needed to make some more forward runs and into pockets more often. They started to drop off, that was an opportunity for us to play in between them.
"In the first 10 minutes we were trying to get them on the back foot and open those spaces between lines."
Flannery's flourish was the spark United needed to reignite its attack in the second-half, with the striker having a wonderful chance through the middle in the 51st minute which was denied by the Victory shot-stopper.
Laura Hughes and Galic also sent warning shots to keep Garton on her toes, while United's defence tightened to limit Melbourne's options in the final third.
Canberra survived a late scare when 16-year-old Jessika Nash stepped up against De Vanna, denying her connection with the ball inside the box in the 89th minute.
Now their next clash comes on home turf, with Canberra to host the unbeaten Roar at Viking Park on Sunday.
AT A GLANCE
W-League round 10: MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Beard 9') drewwith CANBERRA UNITED 1 (Flannery 45+2') at Epping Stadium.