GUANGZHOU, China (AFP) - Desperate China needed a dramatic winning goal in the fourth minute of injury time to keep their Asian Games hopes alive in a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday.
Wu Xi struck the decisive goal which secured the three points and set-up a winner takes all clash with Malaysia on Saturday to secure an automatic qualifying place alongside Group A rivals Japan.
The Japanese side made sure of their place in the next stage with a 2-0 win over the Malaysians earlier in the day.
North Korea also reached the second round with a 3-0 win over the Palestinian territories, a victory which kept up their 100-percent record in Group C.
China had lost 3-0 to Japan in their opening game and the team's state of siege was underlined by coach Sun Wei's decision to drop first choice goalkeeper Wang Dalei.
Wang had blasted the country's demanding fans as 'morons' after being widely attacked for his performance against Japan.
However, his replacement Zhang Shichang's first task was to pick the ball out of the net after just five minutes when Pavel Sidorenko scored.
China were on top for the rest of the game with Wang Xuanhong having a diving header saved by Maksim Akapov while Mozhapa Murehemaitijiang saw a neat chip come back off the crossbar.
China finally levelled seven minutes from time when substitute Lu Wenjun headed in a teasing left-wing cross from Murehemaitijiang.
They wasted a golden opportunity in stoppage time when Zhang Yuan hit the post with Li Kai pushing the rebound onto the crossbar.
But Wu's 25-yard strike in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave China the three points before Lu Peng's controversial red card dampened the celebrations.
"We have taken the edge off the defeat in the last match against Japan," said relieved captain Zhang Linpeng.
"Although we met some troubles in this match, fortunately we won.
"We will go step by step," he added. "I think we will do better in the next match if we avoid anxiety and calm down."
Japan had to work hard against a plucky Malaysia but goals from Kensuke Nagai and Hotaru Yamaguchi were enough to hand them the win.
"We have won two matches. Now I hope the boys have the confidence to win every match and make fewer mistakes in the future," said Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka.
In Group C, South Korea made amends for their upset defeat to neighbours North Korea by thrashing Jordan 4-0.
Koo Ja-Cheol got the ball rolling on 24 minutes with a fine strike and they went to the break two-up after he got another in the dying seconds.
Kim Bo-Kyung and Cho Young-Cheol added two more goals in the second half.
South Korea coach Hong Myung-Bo praised Monaco striker Park Chu-Young, who only joined the team after the French club made a last minute decision to release him.
"Park came back into the team and created many chances for the young players," said Hong.
North Korea, who have brought 10 players to Guangzhou who featured at the World Cup in South Africa, were too good for the Palestinian territories with Kim Kuk-Jin, Choe Kum-Chol and Pak Kwang-Ryon all on target.
In Group B, 2002 champions Iran edged Bahrain 1-0 thanks to a late first-half goal from Karim Ansari to visrtally wrap-up a second round spot.
Turkmenistan romped to a 6-2 win over Vietnam in the day's other game.
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