Coach Michael Grass said Mid Coast were "learning what it takes to stay in games" after ending Merewether's 10-match unbeaten run and taking four points from a weekend double-header against United to keep alive their finals hopes.
With two rounds remaining in the Herald Women's Premier League season proper, fourth place has become a two-horse race between Mid Coast and Warners Bay.
Mid Coast, fifth, improved to 19 points after beating Merewether 3-2 in Taree in a rescheduled round-five match on Saturday then drawing 1-1 when they met again at Myamblah on Sunday.
Warners Bay rose to 21 points and retained fourth position with a 6-4 win over New Lambton (4) at John Street Oval on Sunday.
Merewether held a one-point lead at the top of the standings heading into the weekend but slipped to third, on 27, after Newcastle Olympic and Broadmeadow both won on Sunday and moved to 28.
Olympic, who were 6-0 winners over last-placed Thornton (0) at Darling Street Oval, are in top spot with a superior goal difference to Magic, who beat Adamstown 2-0 at Magic Park.
The two sides face off in the penultimate round while Warners Bay face Merewether and Mid Coast take on sixth-placed Adamstown (13), who have dropped out of the finals race.
Mid Coast led both encounters with Merewether. On Saturday, Courtney Anderson scored a double to have them ahead 2-0 before Lori Depczynski and Rhali Dobson scored inside the last 10 minutes to level the scores. Evie Bobilak sealed the win, and United's first loss in 11 outings, with a last-minute penalty.
After a scoreless first half yesterday, Layni Fens gave Mid Coast the lead before Depczynski found a late equaliser.
"It was a huge weekend; I'm really happy," Grass said on Sunday. "In the first half today we were under the pump and I've never seen a team from this club dig in the way they did. They stayed in the game until half-time then found something extra in the second half.
"We're a young team and we're learning what it takes to stay in games, which they didn't have before. We always had a bit of a soft underbelly and today they showed that they don't any more. A little bit tougher, a little bit more resilient than what they have been."
Jen Hoy scored a hat-trick in another strong performance for Warners Bay, who led 4-2 at the break. Annika D'Amico, Georgia Cook and Sian Keating all scored in a first half which got closer than Panthers coach Craig Atkins would have like.
After leading 2-0, New Lambton hit back through Tahlia Gossner then Adriana Jones to level at 2-2 midway through the first half. Hoy scored twice after the break to extend the lead to 6-2 before Jones scored from a corner then Taylah Bryde found the back of the net.
"It was really important to get the three points, that's the main thing," Atkins said. "The scoreline doesn't look great but the football was good, particularly in the first half. If we had have been more clinical, the game could have been done and dusted by half-time but we didn't always take our chances.
"In the last 20 minutes, we just relaxed a little bit, so we've got to be smarter there. We've got to be able to close the game out. We'll be working on that. Overall, it was another solid performance but there's a few key things to work on for Merewether next week."
Olympic's Jemma House took her goal tally to 24 with a hat-trick against the Redbacks, who only trailed 1-0 at the break. Jacinta Johnston, Laura Hall and Tulia Palozzi also scored.
Maggie Quinn and Alice Munro both scored in the second half of Magic's win.
Mid Coast 3 (Courtney Anderson 2, Evie Bobilak pen) bear Merewether 2 (Lori Depczynski, Rhali Dobson) at Taree Zone Field on Saturday. Half-time: Mid Coast led 1-0.
Mid Coast 1 (Layni Fens) drew with Merewether 1 (Lori Depczynski) at Myamblah Oval on Sunday. Half-time: 0-0.
Broadmeadow 2 (Maggie Quinn, Alice Munro) beat Adamstown 0 at Magic Park on Sunday. Half-time: 0-0.
Warners Bay 6 (Jen Hoy 3, Annika D'Amico, Sian Keating, Georgia Cook) beat New Lambton 4 (Adriana Jones 2, Tahlia Gossner, Taylah Bryde) at John Street Oval. Half-time: Warners Bay led 4-2.
Newcastle Olympic 6 (Jemma House 3, Jacinta Johnston, Tulia Palozzi, Laura Hall) beat Thornton 0 at Darling Street Oval. Half-time: Olympic led 1-0.
Olympic 28, Broadmeadow 28, Merewether 27, Warners Bay 21, Mid Coast 19, Adamstown 13, New Lambton 4, Thornton 0.
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