A brace from Yasuhiro Yamakoshi failed to prevent Hougang United from grabbing a famous victory over ten-men Albirex Niigata (S) to leave their title hopes hanging by a thread.
Second-placed Albirex Niigata (S) lost more ground in the S.League title race as they crashed to a 3-2 defeat at home to Hougang United, despite Yasuhiro Yamakoshi's double.
Following last week's 1-0 loss to Balestier Khalsa, the hosts could not afford to falter here, but goals from Mamadou Diallo, Sobrie Mazelan and Jordan Webb secured victory for Hougang and deal a potentially fatal blow to Albirex's title hopes.
The home side went into attack mode from the first whistle, as they wasted no time in testing Hougang custodian Fadhil Salim early on.
Left-back Takeshi Ito did well to work his way past Hougang captain Lau Meng Meng before sending the ball into the penalty box. The cross was met by the head of Yamakoshi, but Fadhil produced a spectacular save to deny the striker.
With the home side dominating play, the Cheetahs had to rely on the hit-and run-approach, which paid off with their first shot on goal midway through the half.
Diallo started the attack from the middle of the park and played in Basit Hamid, who was at the edge of the box. The striker wriggled away from his marker and unleashed a stinging shot which was brilliantly palmed away by Takuma Ito.
The deadlock was broken in the 29th minute as the White Swans defence backed off Diallo as he headed towards goal.
In acres of space, the Guinean striker needed no invitation to lash a 30-yard effort which flew past the helpless Ito.
The lead only lasted for four minutes though, as referee Abdul Malik pointed to the spot after Syaqir Sulaiman had manhandled Yamakoshi to the ground.
The striker made no mistake from the penalty spot to level the scores.
Albirex captain Norihiro Kawakami thought he had given his side the lead early on in the second half, but his header was ruled out for offside, much to his dismay.
Against the run of play, Hougang then took the lead in the 66th minute when Sobrie Mazelan struck a powerful, low shot into the back of the net.
It was all over for the White Swans in the 76th minute, thanks to some individual magic from Webb.
The mercurial winger embarked on a solo run from the halfway mark before finishing precisely into the bottom corner to send the away supporters into a frenzy.
Things got worse for the home side in the closing stages, as central defender Kunihiro Yamashita was given his marching orders for a silly head-butt on Faizal Amir.
Yamakoshi grabbed a second goal two minutes into injury time but it was too little too late, as the Cheetahs hung on for the victory.