Despite the shock return of national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, Home United could be facing an early exit in the Singapore League Cup after being held to a 1-1 draw by Hougang United on Monday night.
In a stormy Group A clash at Jalan Besar Stadium, Croatian marksman Stipe Plazibat cancelled out Fairoz Hasan's opener for Hougang, but the Protectors failed to find another goal to turn one point into three.
With Albirex Niigata (S) beating Warriors FC 2-0 in the other Group A game, the result meant both Home and Hougang must win their final fixtures on Thursday to stand a chance of progression to the semifinals.
Captain Hassan was back in the starting line up after missing the last three games due to a dislocated shoulder and a broken nose, but the Singapore No. 1 had to pick the ball out of the net on 36 minutes.
Ali Hudzaifi's deep cross into the box was properly dealt with by the Home defence, with Fairoz bundling home after his first attempt was saved by Hassan.
However, just like in the S.League clash 10 days ago, Home grabbed an instant equaliser. Plazibat haunted his old employers for the third time this season with his 29th goal in all competitions.
The 28-year-old tapped home from close range on 38 minutes after Faris Ramli's snapshot was parried into his path by Hougang custodian Ridhuan Barudin.
Hougang could have retaken the lead five minutes into the second half, but French-Italian youngster Antoine Viterale nodded off-target from Fumiya Kogure's cross.
Home also went close after the hour mark. Izzdin Shafiq's spectacular 30-yard volley was tipped over by Ridhuan.
Hougang finished the game strongly and went close twice in the final 20 minutes.
However, Kogure's header from substitute Justin Hui's cross lacked power, and Fareez Farhan's 30-yard free kick swerved just over the bar.
There was controversy right before the end, with Afiq Yunos received a second yellow card for dissent before Khairul Nizam was shown a straight red for furiously storming the pitch from the bench. He had to be restrained by team management, and ushered into the dressing room.
However, Hougang could not capitalise as the game eventually ended in a 1-1 draw.
For the first time in three games between the sides this season, rival coaches Aidil Sharil and Philippe Aw -- who worked together with the Protectors two years ago -- shook hands at full-time
After two games, Albirex are top of Group A with four points, with Warriors following closely behind on three. Hougang are on two points, while Home lie bottom with just one.
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Abdil Qaiyyim (Shamil Sharif 68'), Hariss Harun, Afiq Yunos, Sirina Camara, Haziq Azman, Izzdin Shafiq, Khairul Nizam (Marijan Suto 77'), Faris Ramli, Sufianto Salleh (Iqram Rifqi 73'), Stipe Plazibat
Hougang United: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Nazrul Nazari, Delwinder Singh, Atsushi Shirota, Faiz Salleh, Ali Hudzaifi, Fabian Kwok, Afiq Noor (Justin Hui 67'), Fairoz Hasan (Fareez Farhan 67'), Antoine Viterale (Iqbal Hussain 84'), Fumiya Kogure (C)