Defending champions East Bengal booked a berth in the semi-finals of the Federation Cup football tournament following a scrappy 1-0 victory over Dempo, in a Group C fixture in Kolkata on Wednesday.
On a rain-soaked evening, East Bengal, after displaying poor finishing in the opening session, made amends after the break, with Robin Singh scoring the match-winner in the 68th minute, at the floodlit Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
The Kolkata giants were, however, lucky to win the match, as referee Pratap Singh failed to award Dempo a clear penalty, and there was an element of doubt in the goal they scored.
In fact, there were several instances of poor refereeing before Australian recruit Tolgay Ozbey, who had set up the match-winner for East Bengal, handled the ball inside the box in the first minute of injury time, but Pratap chose to overlook the infringement.
The victory saw East Bengal finish with seven points and top Group C, making the next match between Pune FC and Mohammedan Sporting an inconsequential affair.
Former I-League champions Dempo ended their Federation Cup campaign with three points from a solitary win over qualifiers Mohammedan Sporting.
Star-studded Dempo, boasting seven from the national squad -- Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Debabrata Roy, Climax Lawrence, Anthony Pereira, Clifford Miranda, Sameer Naik and Mahesh Gawli -- failed to make much of an impression on seven-time winners East Bengal's defence.
The local giants, cheered on by the home crowd, had an erratic first-half, with Tolgay, Reishengmei Vashum missing chances.
But Dempo failed to capitalise as they were equally miserable, badly missing their tactical playmaker Roberto 'Beto' Mendis Silva, who left the club for Churchill Brothers.
One incident that stood out in the first half was when referee Pratap showed the yellow card to Raju Gaikwad for wasting time, when the East Bengal defender took about a minute to wipe the wet ball for a throw-in.
East Bengal looked menacing in attack after the changeover and found the match-winner in the 68th minute. Tolgay led the attack from the right wing from a long ball, before giving a centre to Delhi lad Robin Singh, who slammed the ball home.
But the goal appeared dubious as television replays showed the ball got a deflection from Baljit Singh Sahni, who was in an off-side position, before finding the net.
The official man-in-charge apparently overlooked it, awarding a goal -- and victory -- to East Bengal.
East Bengal will take on either local challengers Prayag United SC or Sporting Clube de Goa in the semi-finals on September 26.
United and Sporting Clube de Goa clash in their quarter-final league fixture on Thursday to decide the semi-finalists from Group D.