In what turned out to be an absolute nail-biting contest, the two teams had a draw written all over till it was captain Lucian Goian who scored a last-minute winner to guide Mumbai City FC to an astounding 3-2 victory over North East United FC and keep alive their play-off hopes in the Indian Super League football tournament.
Romanian Goian, who was the villain in the first half after conceding an own goal to allow North East take a 2-1 half-time lead, finally made amends in brilliant fashion to sweep home a chip into the box sent by Raju Gaekwad in the 90th minute and provide a great finish for the home team when the match looked headed towards a draw.
Mumbai, who needed to win all three remaining matches to have a realistic chance of making the four-team play-offs, took an early lead but fell behind 1-2 before half- time.
They equalised early in the second half but could not break open the North East defence till Goian applied the finishing touch to a fine chip to the far post by Gaekwad.
The victory also halted the host's four-game losing streak at the Mumbai Football Arena and helped them boost their tally to 23 points with two away games in hand against Delhi Dynamos and Chennaiyin FC, both of which they need to win in order to qualify for the semi-finals.
Goians own goal had earlier cancelled out the 15th minute lead Mumbai secured via Cameroonian Achille Emana.
Lying bottom-of-the-table North East, who are out of the race for the last four, fought back brilliantly.
They applied sustained pressure on the Mumbai defense, which looked a bit shaken and also conceded an own goal, to first equalise through Goians own goal and then took the lead just before half time via Portuguals Sambinha.
But Mumbai also bounced back by scoring early in the second half through Everton Santos who had a fine game again and then got the last-ditch match-winner from Goian.
Mumbai dominated the first 20 minutes of the half before the visitors hit back strongly.
After T R Rehenesh came up with a fine save early on with his leg to deny Everton Santos, Mumbai took the lead in the 15th minute when the mercurial Emana found the mark after being left alone to take his time by the visitor's defence.
Emana got the ball off a shallow cross from Santos, switched the ball from left foot to right and then shot it into the left corner between the post and a diving Rehenesh.
It was the 35-year-old Cameroon player's third goal of the season after his strikes against Chennaiyin FC in December and FC Goa last month.
Nine minutes later, North East equalised but in a fortuitous manner through an own goal conceded by Goian who had replaced Gerson Vieira in the eleven for the game.
Goian tried to clear an angular try from Gursimrat Singh Gill that looked heading wide of the far post, only to deflect the ball into his own goal past a hapless custodian Amrinder Singh.
North East's second goal came in the 43rd minute soon after Rehenesh had kept out a free kick from Mumbai's Brazilian player Marcio Rozario followed by the visiting teams Colombian recruit John Mosquera blasting over the bar.
Crossing over, Mumbai started with purpose and got rewarded in the 54th minute when the ebullient Everton hoodwinked a couple of defenders and found the mark with a right footed shot from close range.
He was fed from the left by Rafael Jorda who got hold of a free-kick from well outside the penalty area was taken by Sehnaj Singh.
It was the equaliser that Mumbai needed to keep going in their quest for a victory. And it was finally left to Goian to make amends in splendid style with a superb effort that beat Rehenesh all ends up.
(With PTI Inputs)