Beijing Guoan slipped off the pace in the quest for a place in the knockout phase of the AFC Champions League last night as Aleksandar Stanojevic's side slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor at Workers' Stadium.
Defeat leaves the Chinese Super League side two points adrift of the Uzbeks in group G and a further point behind second placed Pohang Steelers - who drew with J.League Sanfrecce Hiroshima - with two games remaining.
Only the top two teams progress to the last 16 and Fozil Musaev's goal 13 minutes before the end of the first half was enough to secure all three points for Bunyodkor and mark them out as favourites to advance.
"Losing at home, especially when the start was not that bad, is difficult to accept," said Beijing's Serbian coach, who saw his side lose for the first time since taking charge at the start of the season. "But as I said, this is football.
"You will always have obstacles when you are on an upward trend. Today this is exactly the case.
"When you are under difficult circumstance it is always the best place to show spirit and courage, and the understandings of football. I hope in the future we can show these qualities."
Beijing next host Pohang in two weeks' time in a game Stanjoevic's side cannot afford to lose.
There was little joy, either, for Jiangsu Sainty, who slipped to a 2-0 loss in group E in Thailand against Buriram United. Jiangsu, runners-up in the Chinese Super League last year, won their first encounter with the Thais in Nanjing a week ago to move back into contention for a place in the knockout rounds.
But goals from Suchao Nutnum and Charyl Chappuis saw Buriram overtake Jiangsu in the group and close the gap on leaders FC Seoul, who lost 1-0 to Japan's Vegalta Sendai, who had veteran striker Atsushi Yanagisawa to thank for their first win in the competition.
With just two rounds of matches remaining in the competition's group stage - which recommences on April 23 - only three points separates first from fourth in the group.