Saudi international striker Naif Hazazi scored with a pair of second half headers to give Al Ittihad a 4-2 first leg advantage over Guangzhou Evergrande in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday evening.
The 23-year-old forward outjumped the defence of the Marcello Lippi-coached Chinese Super League champions in the 62nd and 89th minutes to give his side the chance to qualify for a fifth Asian Champions League semi-final in nine seasons as the club chase their third continental title.
The defeat left World Cup-winning coach Lippi - who joined the southern Chinese club in June - deflated but hopeful that his team can turn things around in the return leg on home soil on October 2.
"We made some errors which weren't supposed to happen and that's why we lost," said the former Juventus coach.
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"But this game will be decided over 180 minutes and hopefully when we play at home all of our players will be back."
Guangzhou had taken the lead in the 27th minute having had the better of the opening exchanges, with Chinese international forward Gao Lin turning to shoot low into the corner after the Al Ittihad defence failed to clear Muriqui's cross from the left.
But less than a minute later the Saudi side had levelled, Diego De Souza capitalizing on some slack defending at the heart of the Guangzhou back line to send a shot past Yang Jun from the edge of the area.
Guangzhou, though, regained their composure and, with six minutes remaining in the half, Huang Bowen struck from the edge of the area to put Marcello Lippi's team back in command of the tie.
But a penalty from Mohammed Noor four minutes after the restart pulled Ittihad level again before Hazazi's double put the 2004 and 2005 winners in command of the tie.