Former Newcastle United striker Xisco Jimenez struck at the death to earn Muang Thong United a famous 2-1 victory over Japanese champions Kashima Antlers in a fascinating AFC Champions League (ACL) clash in Bangkok.
Theerathon Bunmathan's spectacular early free kick had given Muang Thong the lead before Antlers equalised early in the second half through Pedro Junior. The visitors could have won the game had Yuma Suzuki converted a late penalty.
But the Thai champions -- inspired by the outstanding Chanathip Songkrasin throughout -- had the final say when Xisco netted in added time to secure their first-ever ACL win.
Muang Thong fans were rocked by the news that Teerasil Dangda had suffered a knock in training and was on the bench. The Thai international striker's place in the starting lineup was taken by winger Mongkol Tossakrai.
The shift from the Muang Thong's compact SCG Stadium to the larger and more open Supachalasai Stadium would surely have suited the visitors more as the Kirins' passionate fans were kept much further away from the action.
There was a tentative start, with several fouls committed in the first 10 minutes, breaking up the flow of the game.
But the hosts opened the scoring with their first opportunity after 12 minutes. Chanathip Songkrasin burst into life and ran at the Kashima defence before being brought down 25 yards from goal. Theerathon stepped up and curled a wonderful strike past the despairing dive of Kwoun Suntae in the Kashima goal.
The home side came close to scoring a second on 15 minutes when Xisco Jimenez's neat layoff found Chanathip in space. The playmaker took a touch before shooting, but Suntae got down low to his right to make the save.
- The-AFC.com (@theafcdotcom) February 28, 2017
The visitors had their first effort on target after 18 minutes when Yuto Misao's corner was headed on to Leandro at the far post. The Brazilian had time and space, but his weak shot was comfortably held by Kawin Thamsatchanan.
The Japanese champions were beginning to get a foothold in the game and it took the combined efforts of three defenders to block a Leandro shot from the edge of the box.
Theerathon and Naoaki Toyama then picked up foolish yellow cards for dissent as the Thai champions struggled to contain their opponents.
But Muang Thong then missed an excellent chance to make it 2-0 after 24 minutes. A fine through ball from Chanathip found Xisco 10 yards out. The Spaniard's shot on the turn was deflected into the path of Mongkol, who looked certain to score from inside the six-yard box before being denied by an outstanding block.
Kashima exerted more pressure after the half-hour mark with some incisive counter-attacks and a series of corners.
The Antlers threatened when Leandro charged into the Muang Thong half and released the ball to Shuhei Akasaki on the right. Akasaki's cross was aimed for the back post and Leandro missed the ball by inches after continuing his run.
The visitors came even closer a minute later when Pedro Junior fed the ball through to Akasaki, who was through on goal. The striker's first effort was brilliantly saved by Kawin, and his follow-up from a narrow angle went into the side netting.
It looked like the hosts would be relieved to hear the half-time whistle, but Mongkol spurned another opportunity just before the break.
After another Kashima attack had been broken up, Chanathip led a counter before releasing Mongkol down the right. The pacy winger had space to drive into but took the ball too far wide, and Suntae saved comfortably when he finally got his tame shot away.
And Muang Thong were made to pay for the missed opportunity when Kashima levelled the score two minutes into the second half. Leandro was again the danger man and his low cross from the right found Pedro Junior, who stabbed home at the second attempt, with the home defence static.
The hosts were rocking as the Japanese side tried to go in for the kill. Xisco picked up a yellow card for a foul on Leo Silva as Muang Thong tried to stem the tide. Silva then fired a free kick just over the bar.
The Kirins appeared to have weathered the storm and twice got into good wide positions before Peerapat Notchaiaya and then Tristan Do were wasteful with the final ball. Chanathip then made a surging tun into the Kashima box before being crowded out, with Xisco waiting in a good position.
But Antlers remained dangerous and only a desperate tackle from Lee Ho denied Pedro Junior a clean shot on goal just before the hour mark. The Brazilian was denied by desperate defending again minutes later after driving into the box from the left-hand side.
Muang Thong threatened again in the 69th minute when Chanathip released Xisco down the right. The striker drove forward and tried to find the angle for a shot but was forced wide and had his effort blocked.
The hosts made a double change with 20 minutes remaining as Adisak Kraisorn and Sanukran Thinjom came on for Mongkol and Peerapat. Kashmir soon followed suit, bringing on Yasushi Endo and Yuma Suzuki for Atsutaka Nakamura and Akasaki.
Both tiring sides struggled to make clear opportunities as the game headed into the final 10 minutes.
But Kashima were handed the opportunity to take the lead when substitute Yuma got on the wrong side of Adison Promrak and the defender appear to pull him down. The Uzbek referee pointed straight to the spot before being predictably surrounded by protesting Muang Thong players.
Yuma took the spot kick himself but rolled the ball wide to the relief of the home fans.
And one final piece of inspiration from man-of-the-match Chanathip in added time helped earn Muang Thong the victory.
His pass found Tristan down the right and the wing-back's cross could only be parried into the path of Xisco, who slotted into an empty net.
Muang Thong now sit top of Group E on four points ahead of their trip to Korea to face Ulsan Hyundai on March 14.