Substitute Pipat Thonkanya was the hero of Thailand yesterday with his two goals nudging them toward an unexpected quarter-final spot at the Asian Cup following a 2-0 win over Oman.
Pipat struck eight minutes apart to rip the heart out of the Omanis, who were a pale shadow of the team that outplayed Australia in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
The 28-year-old finished brilliantly both times to send the home crowd into raptures at Rajamangala National Stadium and put the co-hosts in the box seat in group A.
The Thais lead the pool on four points with Australia and Iraq on one point each.
They play each other today to press their claims for a place in the last eight.
"Pipat had an ankle niggle a few days ago so we used him as a substitute and he did a very good job and now we have four points so we have a chance to make the second round," jubilant Thai coach Chanvit Polchovin said. "This is a real turning point in order to change the attitude of the Thai people and make them want to cheer the Thailand team so we hope we can do better and better."
Oman coach Gabriel Calderon had little positive to say about the game, blaming the referee for handing out four yellow cards against his players in the first half.
"We have three finals, we draw the first [against Australia] we lose the second and we have to play the third and last [against Iraq]," Calderon said.
"We had six players with cramp [from the previous game] and Thailand had one day's more rest than us. We had four yellow cards and Thailand had zero," he said.
The match kicked off in temperatures of 37oC and high humidity with the crowd building to around 25,000.
Pipat came on in the 58th minute and it was his quicksilver finishing which put the polish on an impressive effort from Thailand.
He first struck in the 70th minute when local pin-up Teerathep Winothai, a substitute for Kiatisak Senamuang, broke free on the right and his tantalizing cross was smashed home from close range.
Teerathep won an aerial challenge eight minutes later to present Pipat with his second goal, the striker chesting it down to blast home past Bolton's Ali Al Habsi.
Oman were under pressure for most of the opening half with four of their players shown the yellow card by Korean referee Lee Gi-young. Hassan Yousuf was cautioned for dissent and Imad Ali soon followed him into the book after kicking the ball away. Said Shoon and Juma Al Wahaibi were also cautioned.
The Omanis had a good spell early in the second half and Imad stormed into the area only for defender Kiatprawut Saiwaew to take it off his toes before he was about to shoot.
Midway through the half Pipat forced goalkeeper Al Habsi into a diving save soon after coming on as substitute.
Oman nearly broke the deadlock in the 65th minute when Ahmed Hadid's free kick was headed on by Hassan Yousuf only for goalkeeper Kosin Hathairatanakul to palm it to safety off the upright.
But the goals finally came as the Omanis broke open and Pipat gave Thailand renewed hope of making an impact at the Asian Cup.