So the Reds go to the penultimate week of the season fourth, with the Nix fifth and City breathing down their necks in sixth and all to play for.
City was without key defender Bart Schenkeveld but they got on the front foot straight away.
It could have been a goal apiece inside the first two minutes as Craig Goodwin, the Reds wide man, fired in a shot which City keeper Eugene Galekovic had to save inside the first 60 seconds while at the other end Kearyn Baccus hit the woodwork in the second minute.
City were in the ascendency early, fired by their back to form French winger Florin Berenguer, who has finally shrugged off injury and other setbacks to deliver the kind of threat that City hoped he would offer when they signed him.
Berengeur played wide on the left and ran at defenders, gliding past and into space to either set up shots for himself or crosses for team-mates – as he did in the 11th minute, when his dribble allowed him to set up Shay Harrison for a shot which Reds keeper Paul Izzo did well to tip over the bar.
From the resultant corner Harrison then went close, his volley hitting the side netting.
Berenguer was instrumental in creating City’s next good opportunity, his pass finding Baccus but the midfielder blasted over.
Adelaide was second best at this point, but things changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the first half after lanky striker Jordy Thomassen went off to be replaced by speedy substitute Nikola Mileusenic.
The latter almost scored with his first touch, bursting down the left and firing in a shot which Ritchie De Laet deflected past Galekovic on to his own post, almost putting through his own goal.
Galekovic then rescued City twice in a matter of moments after Ryan Kitto’s cross caused consternation in the hosts penalty area. First the veteran goalkeeper saved from George Blackwood and then when Ben Halloran seized on the rebound he reacted quickly to stop that shot too.
Adelaide finished by far the stronger as City scrambled to keep a clean sheet until the break, Rostyn Griffiths heading off the line with Galekovic beaten.
City came close shortly after the interval when defender Harrison Delbridge’s header from a Maclaren cross forced Izzo to save. Maclaren’s first time volley from distance then went just wide of Izzo’s post.
At the other end Galekovic had to react smartly to gather Goodwin’s snap shot after City only partially cleared an Adelaide attack.
Once again Izzo came to the Reds rescue just after the hour mark when Delbridge rose above his marker to direct a header goalwards from a Harrison free kick, the goakeeper reacting to tip the ball on to the bar and out for the relative safety of a corner.
The pace or intent never wavered as the hosts drove forward and Adelaide hung on, defedning in depth and relying on counter attacks to give them breathing space.
Maclaren, with a burst of acceleration and a shot against the post, came closest to ending the stalemate as the clock ticked down but Goodwin almost stole the points for the Reds with an 87th-minute free kick Galekovic did well to tip over.
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing