Star striker Bhaichung Bhutia scored eight minutes from time to guide 10-man East Bengal to a solitary goal win over JCT in their final Group A match and book a berth in the semi-finals of the Federation Cup in Silchar on Sunday.
Bhutia, who substituted Alvito D'Cunha in the 75th minute, made an opportunistic strike seven minutes after he entered the field as a loose ball fell on his way after a scramble inside the JCT box at the Satindra Mohan Dev Memorial Stadium.
The India captain thus more than made up for his absence from the Kolkata side for the two earlier group matches due to a hamstring injury.
With two wins and a draw, East Bengal emerged group toppers with seven points and will face their arch rivals Mohun Bagan in the second semi-final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Guwahati on December 31.
East Bengal were down with 10 men from the 25th minute when Harmanjot Khabra got his second booking after his first offence as early as the eighth minute but the Red-and-Gold brigade from Kolkata fought valiantly to emerge victorious.
Later, in an inconsequential Group A match, Viva Kerala held Salgaocar to a 1-1 draw.
For Viva, Reuben Senyo scored the goal in 36th minute, while Manjdou Keita found the nets for Salgaocar in 88th minute.
In another match, Shillong Lajong and Pune FC played out a 1-1 draw in an evenly contested thrilling Group D match in Guwahati, a result which sends Lajong to the last four, and Pune FC out of the Federation Cup.
Both the teams were locked 1-1 at the lemon break, which saw some good entertaining football from both the teams at the Nehru Stadium.
Pune FC needed full three points, while Lajong just needed a draw from the match to stay in contention for the semi-finals.
Kyryshang Lyngshing put Shillong Lajong ahead in the 31st minute but the scores were equalised in the 42nd minute through a penalty.
S Venkatesh's right foot brushed past the hand of Anil Gurung inside the box and the resultant spot kick was converted easily by Douhou beating Gumpe Rime the wrong way.
Shillong Lajong and Pune FC both finished their engagements in Group D with five points each.
Shillong Lajong will take on Churchill Brothers in the semi-final, on December 30.
In another Group D match between Dempo SC Goa and Air India played at Nehru Stadium under flood lights, Dempo blanked the Mumbai side 2-0 with its fast paced game.
Needing an outright win with at least two goals margin, Air India started aggressively in the early fifteen minutes, but it was Dempo SC who salvaged some pride by going ahead in the 22nd minute through a Peter Carvalho goal.
Dempo then doubled the lead in the 85th minute through Climax Lawrence.