Thailand's quest to win a record-extending 17th gold medal at the 31st Southeast Asian Games men's football tournament continued on Thursday, as they marched on into the final with a 1-0 extra-time victory over Indonesia.
In a fiercely-contested semifinal at the Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh, Hanoi which saw both sides unafraid to get stuck in -- which unsurprisingly eventually boiled over into unsavoury scenes at the death -- the breakthrough finally arrived in the 94th minute courtesy of a ferocious Weerathep Pomphan effort.
The victory means that Thailand are now firmly made amends for their humbling failure to make it out of the group stage three years ago, although only a gold medal is likely to suffice for the most successful team in SEA Games history -- with their current haul of 16 titles ten more than the next best in Malaysia.
Having lost won the SEA Games gold medal in 1991, and never since the tournament became an age-group competition, Indonesia will once again be left to rue a huge missed opportunity, especially given they more than gave the Thais a run for their money.
Marc Klok came closest for the Indonesians with a curling freekick early on that whizzed just past the post, while a powerful header from the midfielder also forced Kawin Thamsatchanan into a flying save in the 78th minute.
With just four minutes remaining, Egy Maulana had an opportunity that he should have done better with after getting in behind the opposition defence down the right.
Despite being chased by two recovering defenders and faced with an awkward angle, Egy would have had a clear sight at goal had he not opted to flick the ball towards goal with his preferred left foot -- only succeeding in sending a meek attempt straight at Kawin.
With neither side able to find a winner in the 90 minutes, the tie then went into extra-time.
And just four minutes after the restart, Thailand would go on to score what proved to be the winner when Patrik Gustavsson's barnstorming run down the middle saw him break into the box before playing a pass back to Ben Davis, who in turn laid it off to Weerathep.
Producing a delightful spin past his opponent, Weerathep created just enough space for himself to lash a powerful drive past Ernando Ari in at the near post, sealing Thailand's progress into the gold medal match and breaking Indonesian hearts in the process.
What should have gone down as creditable battle on the part of both teams was then marred in the closing stages when Thailand's William Weidersjo was sent off shortly before a cynical challenge led to a huge fracas, which saw Indonesia finish the game with just eight men after Firza Andika, Rachmat Irianto and Ricky Kambuaya all seeing red for their involvements.
Thailand will now meet Vietnam in Sunday's decider after the reigning gold medallists defeated Malaysia in similar fashion -- a 1-0 win after extra-time -- later on Thursday evening, with the Malaysians and Indonesia now having to settle for the consolation of vying for the bronze medal.