A double from Melina Ayres has given Melbourne Victory a deserved 3-0 win at Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, leaving Canberra United's semi-final aspirations in tatters.
Ayres ended a long drought in front of goal with a first-half double as last season's premiers put one hand on a finals berth with a fourth win on the trot.
Melbourne now boast a three-point advantage over fifth-placed Brisbane Roar with three rounds remaining. Canberra are a further four points adrift and out of the reckoning having played as game more.
The Victory took full advantage of a reduced three-match round, with Melbourne City, Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar all out of action ahead of next week's Olympic qualifiers.
Both sides were without key defenders on Matildas duty, with Victory's Jenna McCormick and United's Karly Roestbakken unavailable.
Livewire flanker Darian Jenkins was a constant threat on the right for the Melbourne side and the American set up the opener for Ayres to push home on the half-hour mark.
Having not previously scored all season, Ayres made it two in seven minutes with a decisive finish after an assist from England international Natasha Dowie.
While sixth-placed Canberra fought back in the second half, Victory could easily have extended the winning margin only for Dowie to uncharacteristically miss a hatful of chances.
The 31-year-old finally grabbed a reward with 13 minutes remaining when she outjumped a host of defenders to convert a far-post header.
Meanwhile, Western Sydney Wanderers' premiership hopes suffered a potentially mortal blow as the second-placed side slipped to a shock 3-2 loss against the hitherto winless Adelaide United on Saturday evening.
Mallory Weber scored two in addition to Chelsie Dawber's opener, before a missed penatly and two eleventh-hour goals from the Wanderers set up a frantic finale.
The result leaves the Wanderers six points adrift of Melbourne City with the pair due to meet in the regular season's penultimate round.
Perth Glory also picked up their first win of the season thanks to a 4-2 away triumph over Newcastle Jets in the round-opener on Thursday.
The match was highlighted by a string of quality strikes as Perth secured a three-goal lead within 65 minutes, notably including a powerful header on starting debut for 16-year-old midfielder Hana Lowry.