Melbourne City's chance to control their own Asian Champions League destiny has been thwarted after they gave away a soft late equaliser in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Ventforet Kofu.
The Japanese side struck in the 85th minute at Tokyo's National stadium on Wednesday with Junma Miyazaki heading home to earn the draw that keeps Kofu on top of Group H with one round to play.
Only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the knockout stages but the J2 League side lead City by virtue of more goals scored at the top of the table.
City had been on course to take a potentially decisive three-point lead at the top as they led 3-2 into the dying minutes, but goalkeeper Jamie Young misjudged a cross from Cristiano, hesitating fatally as the ball drifted away from him for Miyazaki to head into an empty net.
Melbourne had started brightly, taking a fifth minute lead with a wonderful left-footed shimmy and strike from defender Callum Talbot, but Shion Inoue headed the home side level after a fine move just three minutes later.
Kofu were close to taking the lead minutes later before Jamie Maclaren threatened for City just after the half-hour, hitting the post with his header.
Just before the break, a long, hopeful ball from Inoue should have been dealt with by centre back Curtis Good, but he dithered, allowing Yoshiki Torikai to nip in to athletically lob the ball home past Young.
City's comeback after the break, though, was striking with Tolgay Arslan scoring from the penalty spot just before the hour mark after Sota Miura was penalised for handling Leo Natel's cross.
Marin Jakolis then swept home another Natel cross five minutes later to give City what looked as it would be a crucial three points until the unfortunate late equaliser.
The good news of the night for City was the return of Socceroo Mathew Leckie, who saw his first quarter-of-an-hour of action for three months as a sub following his recent knee injury.
Melbourne (eight points) still have one last chance to top the tight group, though, as they host Chinese Super League side Zhejiang (six points) next Tuesday in their final group match, while Kofu (eight) have a tough trip to Thailand to face Buriram United (six points).
Australian Associated Press