India had to play out of their skin as they rallied from a goal down to edge past spirited Malaysia 3-2 in a Pool A match of the men's hockey event at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Dhanjay Mahadik (27th minute) and Sandeep Singh (35) scored from two set pieces for India, while Bharat Chikkara (66) netted the winner just three minutes before the hooter.
For Malaysia, Hanafi Hafifihafiz (15th) and Azlan Misron (34th) were the goal-scorers.
The match started at a slow pace with both the sides taking time to settle down but gathered pace as it progressed.
From the onset, India played a very tactical game even though the defence looked a bit shaky initially. The Indians relied more on ball possession as their mid-field and forward line was in no hurry to score.
Malaysia might be languishing at the 25th position in the world rankings but with their first half display they proved that they are no pushovers.
The Malaysians threatened the Indian defence on more than one occasion, one of which resulted in the opening goal of the match.
In the 15th minute, Hafifihafiz opened the scoring with a reverse hit after receiving a pass from Mohd Jalil Muhammad Marhan to bring the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium to a deafening silence.
Stunned by the goal, India unleashed a series of attacks on the Malaysian post but the strikers lacked finishing.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 22nd minute but wasted it as their variation did not work.
Malaysia could have doubled their score if not for India goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, who saved the home team on two occasions in the opening half - first padding away Hanafi's shot and then diving full length to his right to keep away Faizal Saari's low drag-flick from Malaysia's first short-corner.
India forced their way back into the match in the 27th minute when Mahadik scored from the host's second penalty corner.
But Malaysia restored their lead seven minutes later when Razie Muhammad Rahim found Azlan Misron unmarked inside the D with a beautiful diagonal pass and the Malaysian striker made no mistake in putting the ball in top half of the Indian net past Chetri.
India, however, drew level at the stroke of half-time through star drag-flicker Sandeep, who slammed the ball into the right of the rival goal which Malaysian custodian Kumar Subramiam had no answer.
With the scoreline tied at 2-2, both the teams displayed fast-paced hockey in the second half.
India was by far the better side on display as they went for quick attacks through the flanks but floundered after entering the opponent's Dee. Malaysia, on the other hand, depended more on counter-attacks.
Sandeep had a golden opportunity to send India ahead in the 49th minute but his powerful flick from a penalty corner was brilliantly saved by Malaysian goalkeeper Subramiam.
From there on it was all India as they pressed hard for the winner but luck did not favour them until the 66th minute when Bharat Chikkara pounced on a ball on top of the Malaysian circle and made no mistake in slamming it hard into the opponent's net to send the crowd into frenzy.
In the dying stages of the match, India earned back-to-back short corners but on both occasion Malaysia custodian Subramiam came to his side's rescue.
India will next face world champions Australia in their next pool match on Thursday while the Malaysians will be up against Pakistan, who earlier in the day beat Scotland 3-0.