Host club AS Dragon that stole the show with an incredible 4-3 injury time win over Erakor Golden Star to pull clear at the top Group B on Wednesday night.
The lead changed hands three times in a pulsating evening clash and was looking like a victory for the Vanuatu club until AS Dragon captain Tamatoa Tetauira scored twice in stoppage time to steal the points.
Reynald Lemaitre’s glancing header opened the scoring for the home side in the 11th minute but it took just four minutes for Erakor to claw them back through a Jacques Wanemut penalty.
Elkington Molivakarua gave Erakor a perfect start to the second spell, firing a low shot past Gilbert Meriel just 38 seconds after the restart but Teinaore Seino nodded the home side level from a scrappy corner just before the hour mark.
Golden Star regained the lead when Dragon defender Gabriel Vakoume headed a Ronaldo Wilkins cross into his own net via a rebound off the post and his goalkeeper with just a nervy six minutes of regular time remaining.
The goal had come against the run of play with Erakor down to ten men after Jospeh Iaruel’s second yellow card earned him an early shower in the 73rdminute.
The advantage finally told with Dragon pushing for an equaliser that eventually came through a Tetauira penalty after Teataura Huata was cleaned out in the box.
Tetauira then popped up at the back post to tap in Reynald Lemaitre’s wayward shot in the fifth minute of injury time to send the Papeete crowd in raptures and his club to the brink of a place in the quarterfinals with six points form their two matches.
“It’s a win and it’s a win less attractive than what we’d expect from our first eleven,” said Tetauira after the match.
“We fought until the end and it paid off. You could say it was a victory of the mind because it was a very difficult first half, we survived.”
A shell-shocked Erakor coach Obed Jimmy struggled to find the words after the match but promised his team will give themselves every chance a claiming a ticket to the playoffs by finishing in the top two with a win over Lossi in their remaining match.
“I thought we would win tonight but the red card, that surprised me,” Jimmy said.
“We fought our best, but the red card reduced the morale of our team. We will win the last match.”
Saturday’s final round of Group B matches see Erakor Golden Star squaring off against AS Lossi at 3pm local time with AS Dragon and Solomon Warriors meeting in the 6pm kickoff.