Hamburg SV winger Son Heung-Min prodded home an injury-time winner as South Korea edged a bad-tempered encounter with Qatar 2-1 to give their 2014 World Cup qualification hopes a major boost on Tuesday.
The substitute toe-poked from just a yard out and deep into stoppage time after a speculative effort came off the crossbar, sparking delirium in the Seoul World Cup Stadium as South Korea provisionally topped Asia’s Group A.
The hosts had earlier blown a 1-0 second-half lead and were drawn into some testy exchanges, including a mass pushing and shoving match with five minutes to go, as a disappointing draw beckoned.
But Son’s strike was golden as it gave the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists a third win from five games in the final qualifying round to leave them two points clear with three to play.
Second-placed Uzbekistan play bottom team Lebanon later. The top two teams earn an automatic ticket to Brazil 2014, with the third-placed side going into a play-off series.
South Korea struggled to capitalize on their huge advantage in possession for most of the match, while the visitors were apparently willing to sit back and walk away with a draw.
South Korea had little to show for their efforts around the Qatari area. In the 25th minute Ji Dong-Won took a nifty pass from Augsburg teammate Koo Ja-Cheol but miscued his shot from the left edge of the box.
About eight minutes later, Lee Chung-Yong fed striker Kim Shin-Wook deep in the area, but goalkeeper Qasem Burhan was quicker to the ball.
In the 36th, Lee Keun-Ho crossed for Lee Chung-Yong but the Bolton Wanderers midfielder fluffed his chance. Shortly afterwards, Kim Shin-Wook’s shot deflected off Qatari defender Ibrahim Majed.
It was much the same story in the second half. Lee Chung-Yong received a header from Ji Dong-Won in the 50th minute but his rolling shot from the top of the ‘D’ rolled just wide of the right post.
Substitute Lee Dong-Gook headed a Ki Sung-Yueng free kick in the 55th minute but it went right at Burhan in goal.
Lee Keun-Ho finally put the home team on board in the 59th by superbly glancing Park Won-Jae’s cross into the Qatari goal. But Qatar drew level just three minutes later as Khalfan Ibrahim buried a low shot past Korean keeper Jung Sung-Ryong.
The game grew testy in the closing stages, with Son sparking a late melee when he appeared to kick out at Hamed Ismaeil following a heavy challenge.
But despite the fraying tempers, Son kept his wits about him and was on hand to nudge the late, late winner over the line.