Leong Jun Hao saved the Malaysian men's team's blushes after delivering the winning point against Japan in a comeback 3-2 victory in their final group match at the Asia Team Championships on Friday.
They now go on to face South Korea in the semi-finals on Saturday, with Indonesia taking on Singapore in the other encounter.
Malaysia would need to improve against South Korea after their slim win over Japan, especially after fielding a more established and experienced line-up compared to the young Japanese side, most of whom were playing their biggest matches.
Credit was due to Leong, who cut a composed figure against Koo Takahashi to win in straight games 21-18, 2-16.
The third men’s singles admitted he had never been in a situation like this.
“I have never played in a team event with the score tied at 2-2. I am glad to have contributed the winning point. It was a pressure situation as the Japanese gave me a lot of tough moments.
“I just told myself to stay calm and take it point by point,” he said.
In the first match, Lee Zii Jia had to come from behind before prevailing against Riku Hatano 15-21, 21-6, 21-16 in a match that lasted almost an hour.
Tokyo Olympics bronze medalists and national number one pair Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik then lost 16-21, 21-23 to unheralded Ayato Endo-Yuta Takei in just 30 minutes for one of the tournament's big upsets.
To put into context the magnitude of this defeat: Chia-Soh were ranked seventh in the world and featured in most of the major badminton championships, while their opponents were ranked 857th and had only played one BWF World Tour event back in 2019, where they lost in the first round.
Chia later said “There was no excuse for this defeat, and we have to quickly put this disappointment behind us and move on.”
The pair’s defeat meant Japan was back level at 1-1 and Aidil Sholeh was tasked to restore their lead.
Even though the Malaysian gave it his all in the 76-minute battle against Koo Takahashi, Aidil succumbed 21-19, 16-21, 15-21 and needed Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin to salvage this match.
The world number 17 pair were taken to the wire against Shuntaro Mezaki-Haruya Nishida, before eventually crossing the line with a 17-21, 21-17, 21-17 victory, to pave the way for Leong’s match winning moment.
The Malaysian women’s team also face South Korea in the last four, while Indonesia play Japan.