Geylang International failed to build on their stunning victory over Lion City Sailors, as they were given a reality check by Hougang United in a 4-2 loss at Our Tampines Hub on Sunday (September 11).
That home defeat is damaging to the Eagles' continental aspirations, as the fourth-placed side fall seven points behind Tampines Rovers in third, which guarantees a spot to the AFC Cup.
The Tampines-based club are also in danger of losing their fourth spot, with Tanjong Pagar United and Hougang United separated by goal difference and a point respectively.
All seemed business as usual in the opening exchanges of the fixture with Geylang International establishing a two-goal cushion within the first 36 minutes.
Umar Akhbar gave the Eagles an early lead six minutes into the contest when he blasted Ilhan Noor's cross past Cheetahs goalkeeper Mukundan Maran.
The hosts then doubled their advantage when Faizal Roslan diverted Vincent Bezecourt's fierce drive into goal.
Feeling comfortable with their winning margin as half-time neared, Geylang International were caught cold by Hougang United powerful forward Pedro Bortoluzo, who rose the highest and headed in a ball from a corner delivery.
The Eagles' vulnerability in set-piece situations was exploited again in the 63rd minute with an inswinging corner finding its way to former Crystal Palace player Andre Moritz, who reacted the quickest to pounce the ball past a diving Zaiful Nizam.
Geylang International was presented with a great opportunity to restore their lead in the 82nd minute when Khairul Hairie's deep cross from the right sent Fareez Farhan clear on goal. But the former football prodigy hesitated and was quickly closed down by an onrushing Mukundan.
That miss proved to be costly three minutes later as Hougang United completed their comeback with a tap-in by Geylang's former player Shawal Anuar.
The referee further rubbed salt into the Eagles' wounds when she incorrectly awarded the opposition an indirect free-kick inside the penalty box for an alleged back-pass violation, resulting in Cheetahs creative midfielder Kristijan Krajcek scoring from that situation.
Feeling crestfallen after being handed their first defeat in five matches, Geylang International have to quickly pick themselves up in preparation for a potentially bruising battle against high-flying Albirex Niigata in less than five days' time.
Man of the match: Ilhan Noor - The 19-year-old's enterprising play down the right flank was a bright spark amid a disappointing defeat to the Cheetahs. He had given opposing full-back Farhan Zulkifli a torrid time with his dribbling skills and the ability to push ball into space. One of those moves turned into an assist for Geylang International's first goal.