Home United let slip a great opportunity to close the gap at the top of the S.League after a 1-1 draw with leaders Albirex Niigata (S) at Bishan Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Protectors remain 16 points off the pace, with four games in hand, after Singapore under-22 starlet Adam Swandi came off the bench to cancel out Naofumi Tanaka's early opener.
Aidil Sharin's side got off to the worst possible start by conceding inside three minutes.
Marauding left-back Tanaka took a speculative punt from a tight angle outside the box, which somehow beat Home goalkeeper Hassan Sunny at his near post.
Albirex almost doubled their lead four minutes later. Shoichiro Sakamoto went through on goal after Hariss Harun lost possession, but the former fired over with just Hassan to beat.
Hariss then hacked off the line on 12 minutes after it looked like Kento Nagasaki's deflected shot was creeping in.
Home suffered another setback when Khairul Nizam was stretchered off due to a knee injury, and was replaced by Adam.
The Protectors gradually got their act together and went close on 36 minutes. Croatian marksman Stipe Plazibat saw his left-footed effort in the area denied by Yosuke Nozawa.
The Albirex custodian denied Plazibat again on the stroke of half-time after the latter looked odds-on to convert Faris Ramli's right-wing cross.
Nozawa carried where he left off after the break, with a stunning reflex save to deny Adam's bullet header from six yards out.
The 37-year-old continued to keep the Protectors at bay, with another fingertip stop to keep out Jumaat Jantan's snapshot in the 56th minute.
Nozawa was finally beaten on 72 minutes, with Adam's volley taking a deflection to loop in after Irfan Fandi had knocked down Plazibat's free kick.
Albirex could have retaken the lead six minutes later, but Nagasaki's 25-yard free kick was kept out by Hassan.
Home piled on the pressure in the dying stages, but could not find the decisive goal.
On 81 minutes, Faris connected with the rebound after Nozawa got a fingertip to Jumaat's cross, but contrived to head it wide from two yards out.
Faris had an opportunity to redeem himself in the final minute of regulation time when he strode onto Plazibat's slide-rule pass in the area. But his resulting curler clipped the right-hand post before going out of play.
The final whistle soon sounded to snap Albirex's winning streak at 12, but the White Swans are the hottest of favourites to retain their title.
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Juma'at Jantan, Irfan Fandi, Hariss Harun, Sufianto Salleh, Aqhari Abdullah (Iqram Rifqi 64'), Izzdin Shafiq, Khairul Nizam (Adam Swandi 20'), Faris Ramli, Stipe Plazibat, Song Uiyoung (Amiruldin Asraf 87')
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Tomoki Menda, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Ryuya Motoda (Rui Kumada 59'), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Yuuki Yamanouchi 78')