Croatian marksman Stipe Plazibat scored four goals to help Singapore's Home United edge Vietnam's Than Quang Ninh 5-4 in the AFC Cup Group H game at the My Dinh National Stadium on Wednesday night.
The victory takes the S.League outfit to the top of Group H after three matches, with two wins and one defeat.
The Protectors dominated the early exchanges and it was no surprise when they broke the deadlock after just 11 minutes.
Izzdin Shafiq's diagonal ball over the top caught out the Than Quang Ninh defence, with Nizam beating the offside trap to thump home a stunning first-time volley into the roof of the net.
Aidil Sharin's side doubled their lead four minutes later. Plazibat tucked home from the spot after he was adjudged to be brought down inside the area by Than Quang Ninh centre-back Nguyen Minh Tung.
Than Quang Ninh gradually settled into the game and pulled one back on 36 minutes.
- AFC Cup (@AFCCup) April 5, 2017
Substitute Pham Nguyen Sa tore down the right flank before delivering a teasing cross into the box. Home right-back Juma'at Jantan inexplicably cleared the ball into his own net.
With confidence rising after grabbing a lifeline, the hosts duly restored parity one minute before half-time. Bui Van Hieu's header from Nguyen Thanh Hien's cross took a bounce off the turf to deceive Eko Pradana Putra, deputising for the injured Hassan Sunny, in the Home goal.
Than Quang Ninh dominated the start of the second half. They were unlucky to see a goal ruled out for offside, before Home retook the lead four minutes after the hour mark.
Plazibat played a neat one-two with Faris Ramli, before curling a beautiful strike past the outstretched left hand of Than Quang Ninh custodian Huynh Tuan Linh.
The Protectors would make it 4-2 on 69 minutes, with Plazibat completing his hat trick by sweeping home a slide-rule pass from Faris from just inside the box.
However, Than Quang Ninh would pull one back nine minutes later, with captain Vu Minh Tuan going past three defenders before firing home a deflected shot.
Home thought they had put the result to bed on 86 minutes when Croatian substitute Marijan Suto unselfishly set up compatriot Plazibat for an easy tap-in, and the latter's fourth goal.
However the hosts got another goal back deep into injury time. Nghiem Xuan Tu's free kick from outside the area looped over Eko.
Than Quang Ninh nearly stole a point in the dying stages, but Home left-back Sirina Camara produced an inch-perfect challenge to deny Nguyen Xuan Hung from converting.
Their next AFC Cup game will be on April 18 against Myanmar's Yadanarbon.