Hougang United will finish in a disappointing sixth position in their 2017 S.League campaign after a 1-0 defeat to third-from-bottom Balestier Khalsa at Hougang Stadium on Thursday night.
Hazzuwan Halim's second-half penalty was enough to separate the sides in a tight affair, with Hougang now having no chance of overhauling Warriors FC for fifth place.
Hougang almost got off to the best possible start by scoring within a minute, but captain Nurhilmi Jasni was unable to direct home Iqbal Hussain's right-wing cross.
Balestier gradually settled in and went close six minutes later. Aung Kyaw Naing fired just wide after being teed up by Myanmar compatriot Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit in the box.
The Cheetahs were largely in control, though, and should have went ahead on 35 minutes. Iqbal Hussain looked set to convert after collecting Faiz Salleh's inward pass, but thrashed his shot against the crossbar from eight yards out.
Balestier then grabbed a shock lead 14 minutes into the second half.
Hazzuwan sent Ridhuan Barudin the wrong way from the spot for his eighth goal in all competitions after Nurhilmi was adjudged to have handled from a corner.
Hougang could have found an instant equaliser. But Nurhilmi scuffed wide from Nazrul Nazari's cutback, failing to redeem himself in the process.
Hougang boss Philippe Aw threw on Fairoz Hasan and Justin Hui in place of Amir Zalani and Syahiran Miswan for the final 20 minutes, but the home side could not find the breakthrough.
In the 73rd minute, Iqbal could not put his acrobatic volley on target from Faiz's left-wing cross.
Two minutes later, French-Italian forward Antoine Viterale fired well over from the edge of the box.
Hougang did everything they could over the dying stages, but were unable to get past a stout Balestier backline, led by Hanafi Salleh.
There was one last opportunity on the stroke of full-time, but Japanese defender Atsushi Shirota headed over from Fairoz's inswinging corner.
Balestier will finish off the season on 19 points, but will need to wait for Brunei DPMM to play their final two games to see if they can seal seventh place above Steve Kean's side.
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Faiz Salleh, Syahiran Miswan (Justin Hui 70'), Zulfahmi Arifin, Amir Zalani (Fairoz Hasan 70'), Iqbal Hussain, Antoine Viterale, Nurhilmi Jasni (C)
Balestier Khalsa: Zaiful Nizam (GK, C), Fadli Kamis, Hanafi Salleh, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Ahmad Syahir, Tajeli Salamat, Huzaifah Aziz (Shah Hirul 84'), Raihan Rahman, Nanda Linn Kyaw Chit (Khairuddin Omar 88'), Hazzuwan Halim, Aung Kyaw Naing