A sensational 96th-minute Luke DeVere equaliser earned Brisbane Roar a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory on the A-League’s opening night.
The Roar’s Matt McKay’s was sent off after the hour mark, giving Victory the upper hand, and the visitors made the most of their advantage when Mitch Austin lashed home a loose ball to put them 1-0 up seven minutes from time.
But the Roar scrambled a goal from a late set-piece in the dying moments, sparking frenzied celebrations from 15,805 at Suncorp Stadium.
The goal was miraculous, with DeVere volleying over a stranded Lawrence Thomas while falling backwards.
But in his first A-League start in 18 months after battling thigh and knee injuries, it was tough to begrudge DeVere his goal or the Roar its point.
McKay received a yellow cards either side of halftime and was sent off in his 200th game.
After receiving a first-half caution for swinging an arm at Fahid Ben Khalfallah, McKay earned his marching orders for tugging the Tunisian international’s shirt on 65 minutes.
The skipper couldn’t believe his fate, throwing his armband in referee Shaun Evans’ direction as his incensed coach John Aloisi remonstrated from the touchline.
It allowed Victory to wrest back control of the match, which had failed to hit any great heights until then.
The most interesting battle was that of the two Socceroos’ No.10s, with A-League debutant Brett Holman up against returning Victory midfielder James Troisi.
Holman hit the ground running with a sparkling display, finding space and directing traffic in the Roar’s front third.
Troisi was bright but unable to link up effectively with teammates who weren’t at the club when he left two seasons ago. But he did create the best chance of the first half from a wide free kick, which debutant defender Alan Baro headed over from close range.
Holman spurned a similar chance from milestone man McKay’s cross on 33 minutes.
A man down, Brisbane gave up the ascendancy but looked set for a point.
That is, until Austin reacted quickest when Ben Khalfallah’s set piece bobbled from an aerial contest.
Given their last visit to Suncorp Stadium – when the Roar found two goals at the death in last year’s elimination final – Victory were wise to be watchful until the final whistle.
But they were stung again, with substitute Leigh Broxham fouling Maclaren, allowing DeVere to capitalise on Tommy Oar’s set piece.
After seeing his side receive six yellow cards among nine for the night, Aloisi lashed Evans’ performance.
“I’ll make one comment about the referee in my opinion. He wasn’t good tonight,” Aloisi said.
“Even with 10 men we’re still pushing and pushing and I couldn’t be happier for someone like Luke Devere.”
Despite the last-gasp goal, Victory boss Kevin Muscat quickly made his peace with the result.
“I thought we were very good value. We played against a very good team,” he said.
“If you analyse the result, you’d be disappointed … I’ll analyse the performance and I thought we were very good.”