Reigning champions Western Sydney have been knocked out of the Asian Champions League despite beating Chinese powerhouses Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 on a rain-soaked night in China.
Victory was only part of the equation.
The Wanderers also needed the other match in their group being played simultaneously between Kashima Antlers and FC Seoul to end in a draw to secure second spot behind leaders Guangzhou and clinch a knockout berth.
With the Wanderers ahead and the other clash level at 2-2 with just 12 minutes remaining, things appeared to be falling into place for the Wanderers with their title hopes on a knife edge.
But Mauricio Molina’s injury-time winner for Seoul would end the Wanderers’ chances in the most dramatic fashion and render Mark Bridge’s and Tomi Juric’s goals irrelevant.
The Wanderers now finish the group in third place, a point behind Seoul who progress instead.
It was hardly the most entertaining match with the heavily waterlogged pitch at Guangzhou Tianhe Sport Centre impeding any chance of a free-flowing encounter.
But the Wanderers managed to deliver their end of their bargain, beating the 2013 ACL champions Guangzhou, who’ve won the last four Chinese Super League titles and are coached by Italian World Cup-winner Fabio Cannavaro.
Meanwhile, Brisbane Roar fell to a 2-1 defeat to Japanese powerhouse Urawa Red Diamonds.
Days after they were turfed out of the A-League finals series, the loss at the Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium also brings down the curtain on their AFC Champions League campaign.
Stand-in Urawa captain Shinzo Korogi put the visitors one up in the first half before substitute Yuki Moto drove a dagger through the Roar’s round of 16 hopes with a second goal close to the hour mark.
Off-contract striker Andrija Kaluderovic pulled one back for Brisbane in the 70th minute – and while his effort sparked the hosts back into action, their fate was already sealed.
Beijing Guoan and Suwon Samsung Bluewings fought out a 1-1 draw in the other Group G game which was played at the same time, consigning the Roar to a third-placed finish.
It is the third time Brisbane has failed to make the knockout stages of the tournament in as many attempts.
The loss ends Frans Thijssen’s tenure as interim coach with the Roar expected to unveil new boss Ramon Tribulietx in the coming days.