In the end, the difference between Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets was obvious.
On the surface, it was a superb David Williams hat-trick which underpinned Wellington's 4-1 A-League victory over Newcastle at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Williams hot-wired the Phoenix with a goal inside 40 seconds, added a 60th-minute penalty, then completed his hat-trick five minutes later with a magnificent curling strike from the edge of the box for his 12th goal of the season.
The Jets pulled one back through Roy O'Donovan in the 62nd minute, but Sarpreet Singh sealed the deal for Wellington 11 minutes later with a perfectly-placed left-foot finish from distance.
Wellington's victory was built on accuracy, poise, a swift counter-attack, and the ability to finish clinically when opportunities were created. In contrast, Newcastle generated few chances and squandered those they did manage.
Phoenix coach Mark Rudan believes his team have the best strike force in the A-League.
"Without a shadow of a doubt, we have the best striking combination in the league," Rudan said.
"We're a very dynamic side, we've got some fantastic footballers. When we move the ball around, we shift opposition teams around. When we're playing like that, when we're on song, we're an absolute joy to behold.
"We were almost unplayable in that second half, it was a joy to behold."
Missing golden boot front-runner Roy Krishna to suspension, the Phoenix also lacked experienced English defender Steven Taylor, still working his way back from a calf injury.
To be fair, Newcastle were also without Venezuelan Ronnie Vargas, sidelined with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which has dogged him recently.
But coach Ernie Merrick was adamant they still had the players to secure the win.
"We had enough good players out there to do the job. We didn't do the job, and the consequences are we're not going to play in the final," he said.
Newcastle scored 57 goals on their way to last season's grand final: so far this season, they've managed just 29.
Against Wellington on Saturday, they notched up 16 strikes on goal, with just one on target, while the Phoenix recorded 20, with eight finding the mark.
"From making the grand final last year, we've been found out goal-scoring wise," Merrick admitted.
While the chance of a finals spot seems unlikely, he says the Jets will nevertheless keep fighting.
"Until it's mathematically impossible, we'll persist but I don't think we'll make the finals nor do I believe we deserve to be in the finals with a performance like that."