The Brazilian duo of Geison Moura and Diego Gama led the fight-back in the second half as the home side toppled Albirex Niigata for their second consecutive victory
For the second game in a row, resilience emerged as the trump card for Hougang United.
Having fallen behind to Tanjong Pagar United in their previous game before running out 2-1 victors, they had to come from behind again at the Hougang Stadium.
On 15 minutes, Kazuki Sakamoto ran on to Keisuke Ota's neat through ball and slid it beneath Fadhil Salim from a tight angle to give his side the lead.
Near the half hour, Sakamoto beat Fadhil to Kazuyi Okazaki's chipped pass and crashed his header off the bar. The clash also resulted in the custodian injuring his finger, with Nazri Sabri coming on to replace him.
Despite also playing with two makeshift centre-backs in Firman Hanif and Wahyudi Wahid, the hosts were undeterred and mounted a fierce response.
Shunsuke Nakatake headed in a free-kick on the stroke of half-time, but it was ruled out for a foul.
No matter. Ninety seconds into the second half, Diego Gama rose highest to head Azhar Sairudin's free-kick inside the near post to level the scores.
That knocked the Japanese visitors off their stride. The orange shirts hassled and harried and gave their opponents no time on the ball, disrupting their usual possession play.
Geison Moura pounced on Soichi Tanaka's poor back pass but his deft lob fell wide, while Azhar bent a 30-yard set-piece off the bar on 75 minutes as Hougang took control of proceedings.
Kento Fujihara lashed a superb first-time volley inches past the far post in a rare Albirex attack, before Hougang went ahead minutes later.
Fazli Jaffar worked hard to win the ball back outside the box and it fell to Moura, whose grounder from 20 yards crept in at Kazuki Kishigami's right post.
The late drama sparked wild celebrations from the vociferous home supporters, with things getting better in added time.
Kishigami made a hash of a cross and the ball fell to Moura, who gleefully tapped it into an empty net for his third of the season.
The victory saw Hougang top the table with seven point from three games, but coach Amin Nasir stressed the need to keep the good work going.
"In football, consistency is very important,” he pointed out. “We got good points in the first three games, but it is still early in the tournament. We need to put our feet on the ground, we need to work hard and be focused and disciplined in the games to come."
Amin went on to express satisfaction with his team's efforts, especially with their response to going behind and their captain, Fadhil, going off.
"In the first half we were not in the game, but we did rectify our situation and I am glad with their attitude in the second half; they responded with what I demanded from them," he praised.
His counterpart, Tatsuyuki Okuyama, admitted concern at the way his side capitulated.
"We lost the game and we don’t have any excuse," he sombrely said. "I don’t think we played well in the first half, we couldn’t control the game, that’s why in the second half, we gave them the three goals.
"I am not worried about the result or that we lost two games but [more of the fact] that we did not do what we tried to do in both games, that is what I am worried about."