Saad Al Harthi’s header three minutes into injury time gave Saudi Arabia a last-gasp 2-1 win over AFC Asian Cup co-hosts Indonesia on Saturday evening.
The second-half substitute headed home Abdulrahman Al Qahtani’s free kick to deny the home side what looked to be a well-earned draw while also putting the Saudis on course for a place in the quarter-finals.
The goal was a cruel blow for Ivan Kolev’s team, who looked like they had done enough in the last 20 minutes to earn a point and give their Bulgarian coach a fitting 50th birthday present.
Midfielder Elie Aiboy pulled Indonesia level in the 20th minute, cancelling out Yasser Al Qahtani’s 14th minute header in front of a vociferous capacity crowd at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, which included Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indonesia, however, rode their luck – especially in the last 20 minutes – but it looked like they had done enough until Al Harthi headed home.
Indeed, the Saudis started the game in ruthless fashion, with Yasser Al Qahtani in inspirational form in the first 15 minutes and it was no surprise that the Al Hilal hit man should open the scoring.
The 24-year-old fashioned out Saudi’s first opportunity of the game in the 11th minute with a mesmerising run that left four Indonesian defenders trailing in his wake.
But while the move deserved a goal, Malek Maaz conspired to put his shot high over the bar from seven yards out after the ball had been cut back into his path.
Three minutes later, though, Al Qahtani took matters into his own hands and Saudi Arabia were ahead.
Ahmed Al Bahri’s pinpoint cross from the right set Al Qahtani up perfectly to out-jump the home defence and head low to Yandri Pitoy’s right to give the three-time champions the lead.
However, rather than capitulating, Indonesia – thanks to the backing of a largely partisan capacity crowd – fought back and within six minutes Kolev’s side were level.
Central midfielder Saud Khariri was caught in possession 40 yards from goal by Syamsul Bachi and he slid the ball through to Elie, who rounded Yasser Al Mosailem before equalising despite Khalid Al Mousa’s efforts to cover back.
Indonesia refused to be overawed by their more illustrious opponents, although as the game wore on the Saudis’ grew more and more dominant.
Abdulrahman Al Qahtani’s run into the home side’s penalty area six minutes after the restart should have resulted in a goal scoring opportunity for Maaz at the far post, but the midfielder chose to shoot and his attempted seared across the six-yard box.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, the Indonesian defence was prized open again, this time by Al Mousa who slalomed into the penalty area before cutting back to Maaz. His shot was blocked but the ball fell to Abdulrahman Al Qahtani, who was denied when Yandri parried his shot away.
Two minutes later Yandri was again on hand to save the Indonesians, diving to his right to hold on to Maaz’s towering header.
Indonesia’s desperate resistance continued as time wore on when a last-gasp tackle by Maman Abdurahman in the 70th minute denied Yasser Al Qahtani just as he was about to pull the trigger inside the penalty area.
Finally, though, the goal the Saudis deserved came when Al Hariri out-jumped the home defence to head high over Yandri’s outstretched arm.