A fortuitous long-range goal by substitute Nguyen Vu Phong four minutes from time saw Vietnam edge Malaysia at the Surakul Stadium in Phuket tonight, boosting their hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Indra Putra Mahayuddin appeared to have given the Malaysians a share of the points when he blasted home an indirect free-kick in the 85th minute.
But just moments later, Phong lofted a long ball from his own half that bounced over the head of Malaysian goalkeeper Helmi Eliza Elias for his second goal of the game.
Pham Thanh Luong opened the scoring for Vietnam after 16 minutes with an opportunistic strike, but Indra Putra netted a controversial equaliser four minutes later before Phong fired his side ahead in the 72nd minute.
Both teams had their chances in the early stages but the opening goal arrived somewhat unexpectedly.
There appeared to be little danger as Pham Thanh Luong brought the ball through midfield, but with the Malaysian defence failing to close him down, he fired a shot from 30 yards that bounced off the bumpy surface on its way past a surprised Helmi into the bottom right corner.
The Malaysians would quickly get back on level terms in controversial fashion.
A cross from the left was laid off on the edge of the Vietnam box by Amirul Hadi Zainal to Safee Sali, who spun and fired a left-footed shot from the edge of the box that goalkeeper Duong Hong Son touched onto his crossbar.
The ball rebounded to an unattended Indra Putra, who tucked away the ball in what appeared to be an offside position.
Singapore referee P Pandian allowed the goal to stand and Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto was sent to the stands for protesting the decision too vehemently.
Malaysia squandered a glorious opportunity to take the lead in the 71st minute when Mohamad Zaquan Adha surged clear down the right, pulling goalkeeper Son out of position before centering to Safee, who dinked the ball over a defender but hit the crossbar.
Malaysia would rue that miss a minute later as Phong chested the ball down on the left edge of the box and stepped inside, eluding a challenge by Muhammad Juzaili Samion before firing a fierce right-footed shot that flew past Helmi at his near post.
Son made a good save to deny Safee from the edge of the box in the 77th minute, but the Vietnamese keeper let his side down eight minutes later when he took his time with a clearance kick resulting in an indirect free-kick just inside the box.
Hardi Jaffar touched the ball to Indra Putra, who blasted an unstoppable shot into the top left corner of the Vietnam net.
But the Malaysians had hardly finished celebrating the equaliser when Phong launched a hopeful long ball from 10 yards inside his own half that took a wicked bounce just outside the Malaysian box over the head of the stricken Helmi.