2008 champions Vietnam were held to a 2-2 draw by Indonesia in their opening match of the AFF Suzuki Cup despite dominating possession and having the better chances in front of their home fans in Hanoi.
The co-hosts seemed destined for victory until substitute forward Samsul Arif came off the bench to level things up for Merah Putih with an 85th minute goal.
Football is all about results and despite being out-fought and out-thought by Vietnam, it was Indonesia who will return to their base feeling better about themselves after a fortuitous point in this entertaining Group A match.
They went with Sergio van Dijk as the lone striker with Boas Solossa and and M Ridwan lurking out wide hoping to push on in support. But it was Vietnam who took the initiative from the get go and they remained in the ascendency for most of the game.
The home team harried and hassled the Indonesians, giving them little time to settle and find any kind of rhythm. Roared on by an almost full-house crowd, they surged forward in a series of attacks that left Indonesia shell shocked.
It was no surprise when they took the lead on 11 minutes. Indonesia failed to clear a corner from the right, van Dijk heading across goal for Vietnam right-back Que Ngoc Hai to steer the ball home from close range.
The Vietnamese were good value for their lead but refused to sit back. Time and again the Indonesians were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and efforts to break free from their own half only led to more misplaced passes.
It was 24 minutes before Indonesia got a meaningful cross in but it rippled the side netting rather than trouble Vietnam goalkeeper Tran Ngyuen Manh.
Meiga Kurnia was far busier at the other end and his decision making was making his defenders jittery as the Vietnamese whipped in delicious crosses down the right flank, seemingly at will.
And yet, amid the red tidal wave that threatened to engulf the visitors, slack defending in the Vietnam penalty area saw Zulham Zamrun given time and space, to drill the ball into the far corner. The Indonesians were level in the 32nd minute and no one could quite believe it.
The second half saw no changes from either side and Vietnam had no intention of taking their foot off the gas. Vu Minh Tuan made the most of another mix up in the Indonesian penalty area and his effort was tipped on to the post and out for a corner.
With the constant assault on their defence, Indonesia were forced to clear long to van Dijk in a bid to give some relief meaning the likes of Ridwan and Boas were unable to make an impression down the flanks.
On 54 minutes Vietnam made the first change, bringing on talismanic striker Le Cong Vinh for Nguyen Hai An to a resounding reception from the home support who remember his heroics in 2008 when his goals helped Vietnam lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
On the hour mark coach Alfred Riedl made his first substitution, taking off the ineffectual Boas and bringing on Samsul Arif.
For all the possession that Vietnam were enjoying, they were struggling to work Meiga in goal. But within minutes of coming on, Cong Vinh showed his quality with a sweet volley from the edge of the penalty area to restore the home side's lead.
Trailing 2-1 with 15 minutes left on the clock, Riedl brought on Persib Bandung's Firman Utina for Manahati Lestusen and he changed the dynamic almost instantly. Now it was Indonesia who were snapping into the challenges and showing a bit more bite. Vietnam were still a threat, especially on the break, but the arrival of Firman and Samsul had shaken up the visitors.
Samsul was pushing up and applying pressure on the Vietnamese rear guard who had truth be told been enjoying a relatively quiet day at the office.
In the dugout, Indonesia were preparing to bring on Cristian Gonzales when the ball broke to Samsul in the penalty area and he made no mistake. He drilled home from 12 yards, the keeper allowing the ball to slip through his body. Gonzales was told to sit down again and somehow Indonesia were looking at a point gained, not three lost.
The visitors overcame a couple of scares as the game went into four minutes of injury time but they held on for a battling, if highly unlikely, 2-2 draw.
After the game, Riedl was straight to the point. "We got a lucky draw. Vietnam were clearly the better team, with better chances and played very well." However he admitted the players were short of match fitness after a long season but warned "we will get better."
Vietnam's coach Toshiya Miura was disappointed. "I was happy with the performance but not the result," he said.
The draw means Philippines top the group after the first round of Group A games while Indonesia and Vietnam each have one point. Laos are bottom with no points. Next up sees Philippines play Indonesia while Laos take on Vietnam.