So near yet so far, a blunder late in the match turned out to be very costly for the Malaysian side as they were edged out 0-1 by Japan in the Round of 16 match of the 2018 Asian Games.
Dominic Tan's clumsy tackle on substitute Ayase Ueda in the 88th minute gave Japan the chance to score from the penalty spot and Ueda did not disappoint for the Blue Samurai.
It was a tepid start from Malaysia on a very heavy pitch decimated by days of football action as Japan adapted better to the conditions.
Yet, the Young Tigers fired the first meaningful warning shot when Baddrol Bakhtiar's 13th minute effort was palmed away by Ryosuke Kojima out of harms way.
From then on, play largely concentrated in the Malaysian half as Japan started to dictate the terms of the match.
Daizen Maeda hit one shot high over the bar after he was put through then Haziq Nadzli came out trumps to deny Ryo Hatate in the 35th minute to send both sides into half time level.
The second half proved to be a more even affair as Malaysia got their act together. Twice they threatened from long range but both times Safawi Rasid and Akhyar Rashid dragged their shots wide.
It would take Japan until the 73rd minute before they managed to conjure up a second half chance but Haziq reached quickly to deny Daiki Sugioka.
Safawi then had two chances to score but Kojima first tipped his free kick over the bar in the 81st minute with a second shot hitting the post just two minutes later.
Then came the penalty decision and it was the end of the Malaysian dream.