Victory marquee man Robbie Kruse is finding form after his enforced layoff and went close to scoring his second goal in two games in the fifth minute, driving forward and making space well for himself before delivering a shot which Western keeper Filip Kurto pushed to safety.
Victory skipper Ola Toivonen, whose future has been the subject of debate over the past few days, then had a shot beaten away before Josh Risdon went close at the other end with a header over the bar.
A goal seemed inevitable, and it came in the 14th minute when the visitors took the lead.
Jakob Poulsen’s long ball found Nabbout, who outpaced Gulum before blasting past Kurto from a wide angle to score his second goal of the season.
Victory barely had time to celebrate their advantage before Western had pegged them back, and inevitably, it was Berisha who was the villain.
The ball was played out wide to the other former Victory man in the Western line-up, wing back Connor Pain, whose cross from the left was met perfectly by the Kosovan international, who headed past Thomas.
Western didn’t take long to get their noses in front with a goal from Greek international Panagiotis Kone in the 24th minute.
United coach Mark Rudan had foreshadowed line-up and positional changes for this game, and he was true to his word.
Veteran attacker Scott McDonald was not even on the bench – the club said he had an Achilles issue – while Kone, usually a midfielder, was playing higher up the pitch.
The ploy worked to perfection when Leigh Broxham gave away a free kick on the left of the Victory penalty area.
The excellent Alessandro Diamanti – who delighted throughout this game with his set pieces and crossfield passes – delivered an curling free kick which Kone met on the run to volley home.
Poulsen sent a free kick just wide before Diamanti set up Kone for a header at the other end which Thomas gathered easily.
Western had their goalkeeper, Kurto, to thank for preserving their lead.
He produced a finger-tip save to deny Toivonen from close range after Nabbout’s shot was deflected.
From the corner, Victory defender James Donachie’s shot cannoned off the bar. Moments later, Nabbout shot wide.
But the next goal, when it came, was for Western, and once again it was Berisha who tormented his former teammates.
Risdon got forward on the right and floated a perfect cross into the danger area where Berisha, timing his run between Broxham and Donachie, headed past Thomas again.
Western sat deep in the second period as Victory looked to get back into the game.
Kurto held on to Nabbout’s header from an Adama Traore cross, and then the Polish keeper kept the two-goal buffer intact with a close-range reflex save to deny Toivonen after some excellent approach work by substitute Josh Hope.
Victory coach Marco Kurz could only lament his side’s defensive lapses and their profligacy in front of goal.
“We have 13 chances and score one goal. Its not just all about the defence,” he said.
“Creating chances is the difficult part. We must score more goals and we must defend better.”
Western boss Mark Rudan paid tribute to Besart Berisha, a player whom he said he loves.
“He’s got a likeability factor as far as I am concerned, he is everyone’s arch enemy and I like that. The more people throw stones at myself or Bes or our club, its like kryptonite for us.’
“We needed to get the result today. That was the most important thing.”
Western will look to build from this. For Victory boss Marco Kurz, there are many problems to solve.
Michael Lynch is The Age’s chief soccer reporter and also reports on motor sport and horseracing