Adelaide Strikers 6 for 188 (Short 89, Carey 67, Meredith 2-37, Rogers 2-37) beat Hobart Hurricanes 166 (Short 56, Siddle 4-32, Thornton 2-25, Conway 2-32) by 22 runs
In the Eliminator, a must-win match between the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, Carey smashed 67 off 45 balls in his comeback from Ashes duties and combined brilliantly with opening partner Matthew Short, who made 89 of Strikers' 6 for 188.
Their strong attack then nullified Hurricanes, whose inconsistent season finished on a sour note.
Strikers have stormed into unlikely title contention after their fifth straight win to book a clash with third-placed Sydney Thunder in the Knockout on Sunday.
Carey and Short destroy Hurricanes
Ashes heroes Carey and Travis Head returned for their first BBL matches of the season to significantly bolster Strikers' batting order. Carey stole the show early with a calculated assault on the smaller boundaries down the ground.
He showed his intent with a powerful straight blow off Test team-mate Scott Boland and stormed to 20 runs off his first 10 balls in an impressive switching of gears after playing in the long format.
Carey's fast start eased the pressure on Short, who, for most of a breakout season, had provided the fireworks during the four-over powerplay. He had a back seat to Carey before notching his half-century with a huge six off speedster Riley Meredith in the 12th over during the Power Surge.
He then put his foot down just as a bogged-down Carey holed out in the 15th over to end the 145-run partnership. Short smashed spinner Wil Parker for consecutive sixes in the next over but his dismissal snuffed Strikers' momentum at the death.
Boland returns but Hurricanes struggle
Boland was back in the BBL after playing his sole game this season in mid-December just before he became an Ashes cult hero. But this MCG deck was nothing like the green top he decimated England on during the Boxing-Day Test, with Boland suffering against a red-hot Carey.
Hurricanes mostly struggled and badly missed frontline spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who has left the BBL due to national commitments with Nepal. Parker, his replacement, was on a hiding to nothing and promptly smashed for 42 runs off four overs although picked up Short with his final ball.
Hurricanes weren't helped by ragged fielding marked by several dropped catches, with Tom Rogers' sitter to reprieve Short on 15 particularly costly. Their sloppiness seemed to suggest the wheels were falling off but Hurricanes fought back late to give them some hope.
Strikers impress with ball and in the field
Short's terrific game continued with the key wicket of Ben McDermott as he bowled four overs of his handy offspin on the trot. Peter Siddle, who took the most wickets in the BBL's regular season, then claimed opposite number Matthew Wade to tighten Strikers' stranglehold and he finished with four wickets to lead from the front.
Strikers have not missed a beat since losing talisman Rashid Khan late in the season with veteran spinner Fawad Ahmed proving a more than useful replacement.
They've also been rejuvenated by the inclusion of quicks Harry Conway and Henry Thornton, whose fast and straight bowling has been a revelation after playing just one BBL game before this season for Sydney Sixers five years ago.
The duo claimed four wickets between them with Thornton holding his nerve against a rampaging D'Arcy Short, who briefly rattled Strikers.
In a major contrast to Hurricanes, Strikers were sharp in the field to underline their remarkable resurrection, having spent most of the season in the bottom two.
Short fires in vain
Hurricanes' batting oozes with firepower on paper but hasn't quite clicked all season. They've been reliant on McDermott, whose terrific tournament ended when he fell in the first over. A failure from Wade made their chase particularly grim and they needed Short to recapture his belligerent best from his heyday.
He responded with his best knock of a sluggish season to give Hurricanes a flicker of hope. He smashed 22 runs in the Power Surge but his wicket in the 15th over triggered a collapse.
Big-hitter Tim David, who has been their designated finisher all season, showed off his prowess but it was too late. Perhaps Hurricanes' brains trust will rue once again not allowing the Singapore national player more time at the crease.
There was much hype over Hurricanes heading into the season but their early finals demise should be considered a disappointment.