GOLGOL Mebrahtu has waited an eternity to score his first A-League goal, but he chose the perfect moment to get on the scoresheet in his debut for Melbourne Heart, striking in the 89th minute to give the host a much-needed win over Perth Glory in a spiky game that had looked destined to end in a scoreless stalemate.
Mebrahtu came off the bench in the 78th minute to replace his captain Fred and, with his track record - he had played 26 games in the A-League for Gold Coast United without scoring - he might not have seemed the obvious candidate to break the deadlock.
But it was to be a Saturday evening fairytale ending for the Eritrean migrant, who had been given his chance by Miron Bleiberg at the now defunct Queensland side when it came into the league.
The 22-year-old has lightning pace and gets into good positions but has never - until now - been able to finish. But he did so in style after a break by the host which gave Josip Tadic the chance to set him up. It was a goal that not only brought an end to a long personal drought for Mebrahtu, who was thrown a lifeline by Heart after Gold Coast's collapse, but one which will give hope to a Heart side that has struggled to take its chances this season.
The three points lifts Heart into the top six, above Glory. Such are the margins in this league that one win can make an enormous difference.
Until Golgol struck this game might have been remembered more for the role played by combative Glory skipper Jacob Burns, who prods and probes, niggles and annoys.
Burns provided edge by clashing with Heart striker Tadic and then staging a heated debate with Heart coach John Aloisi in the tunnel at half-time after the first half had ended in dramatic fashion with Tadic writhing on the ground and Burns standing over him apparently yelling at him to stop pretending and get up.
The Croatian had appeared to be struck by Glory defender Dean Heffernan in the dying moments of the game and tempers flared as referee Peter Green blew for half-time.
Aloisi and Burns exchanged robust views as the teams trooped back to the dressing room.
Tadic should have given the host an early lead but he spurned a glorious chance in the opening minutes after Perth lost possession in midfield and Nick Kalmar seized on the loose ball to play the striker through. But the Croatian's radar was not working and he drove his effort into the side netting.
It was the sort of opportunity that in-form forwards in winning teams routinely convert, but Heart went into this game at the foot of the table, plagued by uncertainty and inconsistency - the sort of circumstances that often see players snatch at chances.
It was a mainly grim first half in which neither side managed to assert itself. Perth, as is its wont, hustled and pressed hard up the pitch, giving Heart little time to set up to play out of defence.
The host for its part was too sluggish and lacked rhythm, gave the ball away too often with misplaced passes and poor control and wanted too much time to spark forward moves.
Jeremy Walker, a 19-year-old Tasmanian who was promoted from the Heart youth team for a debut against Sydney last week, won admirers then and again impressed in his first home appearance sporting Heart colours.
The right back had a robust contest with Perth flyer Chris Harold, himself no easy adversary, matching the youthful winger defensively and getting forward on a number of occasions to help instigate attacks. His best moment came with a driving run from defence which carried him past two challenges before he set up Fred for a shot.
At the other end Smeltz almost struck for the visiting side, sending first a header and then a shot wide as the game stuttered towards the interval. The second half was played at a higher, more urgent tempo and was a marked improvement on the first.
Heart striker David Williams tried his luck twice with shots from distance, one saved, the other driven wide, before Tadic found himself in the wars again.
As he ran forward to support an attack, Burns stuck a foot out and tripped him up. The forward rolled around as if he was seriously injured. Burns, who only returned from suspension in this game, picked up another yellow card.
Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton is very much at the veteran stage but his reflexes are still sharp, and he produced a wonderful save to keep his side in the game and deny Travis Dodd from close range.
Fred has been plagued by injury all season and has not had the sort of influence he has had in previous years as he battles for match fitness. He should have done better with a shot that flashed across the goal from a Williams cross after a break set up by a Tadic pass down the wing.