As the final round of qualifying for AFC Asian Cup 2023 got underway on Wednesday, seven Southeast Asian hopefuls began their quest to reach Asian football's biggest stage with varying degrees of success.
There were huge upsets for a couple of hopefuls, a comfortable win for a regional powerhouse looking for back-to-back appearances, as well as late heartbreak and a chastening defeat.
All is not lost -- or gained -- after the first set of fixtures but where does Wednesday's action leave the seven Asian Cup aspirants ahead of match day 2? We take a closer look.
Indonesia stun former champions Kuwait
Despite boasting a young, talented team, it did look like this Asian Cup could come too soon for Indonesia -- but they immediately dispelled that notion with a remarkable 2-1 win over former champions Kuwait in Group A.
The Indonesians showed great resolve to come from behind and claim the win, and it certainly helps to have an experienced tactician like Shin Tae-yong -- who led South Korea at the 2018 FIFA World Cup -- at the helm.
Another tough test awaits Indonesia on Saturday in the form of Jordan, who reached the Round of 16 at the last Asian Cup.
Another stunning upset -- and Indonesia are virtually through, but even a draw could prove crucial as they end their campaign three days later against minnows Nepal.
Philippines left to rue missed opportunity
Yet, considering the latter only arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia a day earlier, Philippines were probably in better condition and would perhaps feel the 0-0 draw was a missed opportunity.
Thailand begin in cruise control
Thailand had the most comfortable of starts out of all the Southeast Asian hopefuls, cruising to a 3-0 win over Maldives in Group C courtesy of goals from Sarach Yooyen, Teerasil Dangda and Pansa Hemviboon.
The luck of the draw has been kind to the War Elephants as they look to seal a second consecutive Asian Cup appearance, and they could even qualify by Saturday with another victory against Sri Lanka.
Still, they can ill afford any slip-ups with group hosts Uzbekistan -- who have featured in seven straight Asian Cups since becoming part of the AFC in 1996 -- awaiting in their final tie.
No shame in defeat for Cambodia
Reaching next year's Asian Cup from Group D was always going to a tricky, if not impossible, proposition for Cambodia.
Despite the lack of genuine heavyweights, the group boasts a quartet of relatively evenly-matched teams but with some clearly a bit closer to the finished article than others.
Malaysia issue statement of intent against Turkmenistan
From the moment they raced to a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes, Harimau Malaya looked switched on and, after their opponents had pulled one back, left-back La'Vere Corbin-Ong produced a stunning 70-yard solo effort to seal the win.
Confidence will now be high in the Malaysian camp under new coach Kim Pan-gon, and they must show the same belief and enterprise on Saturday in an even tougher test against Bahrain.
Even a point could be huge ahead of their final game against Bangladesh, which will be one where they enter as huge favourites.
Singapore left to rue massive missed opportunity
If Singapore are to qualify for the Asian Cup, it was likely that they had to get results in their second and third games against Tajikistan and Myanmar, for their opening tie against Kyrgyz Republic -- who appeared in the Round of 16 at the 2019 Asian Cup -- was always going to be the trickiest of the lot.
Yet, with 13 minutes left on the clock on Wednesday, the Lions were on course for a remarkable win via a Song Ui-young strike only to capitulate by conceding two goals in the span of five minutes.
There was little pride lost for Singapore in new coach Takayuki Nishigaya's first competitive game in charge, but they will rue the defensive lapses that left them emptyhanded against Kyrgyz Republic.
The Lions did however show enough to suggest that they could pull off a result against Tajikistan on Saturday, which would immediately get their qualifying campaign back on track..