A PLACE in the top six is no longer a pipe dream but a reality for Sydney FC after an inspired performance by Alessandro Del Piero put the Sky Blues' season back on track with a victory against the defending champions.
Not since round four have Sydney FC been in the top six but an early goal by the Italian and a thunderous second-half strike by Peter Triantis sealed their return to the finals bracket.
It took Sydney just six minutes to open the scoring when Del Piero continued his rich vein of form to punish some poor defending by Ivan Franjic.
The Brisbane Roar defender failed to intercept a tame Blake Powell through ball, allowing Del Piero to slip into space and run through on goal. He jinked past an attempted recovery by Franjic before calmly slotting the ball past Mike Theo from close range.
The hosts were more composed and confident in the early stages but there were signs that the cracks in defence were still present. Stefan Nijland created space for himself and tested Vedran Janjetovic with a powerful long-range shot. Besart Berisha was quiet in the early stages but his movement off the ball made him difficult for the Sydney defenders to contain.
Janjetovic was called into action again in the 22nd minute. Mitch Nichols's first-time right-foot shot looked destined for the back of the net before the Sydney keeper instinctively tipped the ball over the bar.
Sydney, dressed in a one-off white kit for charity, regained the momentum and the Roar failed to contain their growing confidence. Powell raced away from his markers to bear down on goal but Jade North abruptly ended the attack with a late foul and was subsequently cautioned.
Ball retention succumbed to physical and direct football as the tempo was raised. In the frantic final few minutes of the half, Brisbane were gifted a chance to equalise.
Dutch striker Nijland was judged to have been fouled in the box by Fabio and referee Ben Williams had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Berisha coolly converted and celebrated with a few taunts to the home fans that carried on into the half-time break.
Sydney started the second half the brighter and came close to regaining the lead five minutes after the restart. Del Piero beat Theo to the ball out wide and crossed to Powell, who was presented with an empty net. He was only denied by a late clearance from Franjic.
As the match progressed, Sydney's confidence grew and Frank Farina showed his intent by making an attacking double substitution, bringing on Joel Chianese and Terry Antonis for Powell and Ali Abbas.
It was Brisbane who got the next chance to take the lead, though. Against the run of play, Nijland shaved Janjetovic's left post with a curved shot from the edge of the box.
Theo was nearly left red-faced when he dwelled on a back pass for too long, allowing Chianese to pounce on his indecision and charge down a clearance.
The Roar were rattled by Sydney's tenacity and their defence was eventually breached in the 70th minute. A weak clearance went only as far as Triantis on the edge of the area and the industrious midfielder fired a stinging half-volley that beat the reflexes of Theo and nearly broke the back of the net.
There were a few nervous moments still to come for the crowd of 14,589, especially after Nichols found the back of the net with minutes to go. But Sydney immediately breathed a sigh of relief when a late flag from the linesman denied the visitors what would have been a crucial goal.
SYDNEY FC 2 (Alessandro Del Piero 7m, Peter Triantis 69m) bt BRISBANE ROAR 1 (Besart Berisha 45+1m pen) at Allianz Stadium. Crowd: 14,589. Referee: Ben Williams.