Already through to the final, defending champions India suffered a shock 3-5 defeat at the hands of Malaysia in their last and inconsequential league match of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Doha, on Wednesday.
India will take on arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash on Thursday after the latter defeated Japan 5-2 in another round-robin league match earlier in the day.
India had defeated Pakistan 4-2 via penalty shootout in the inaugural edition in Ordos, China last year after both sides were locked goalless in the regulation time of the final match.
Malaysia needed to beat India with a six plus goal margin to qualify for the final and they were cruising along with 4-0 lead in the 38th minute. But, India doused the Malaysian fire late in the game with three goals, denying them a big-margin victory required to make it to the final.
Malaysia took the lead after missing out two penalty corners. Following the abortive second penalty corner, the Malaysians made use of a long corner to go 1-0 up and Abdullah Shahrun Nabil doubled the lead. Young forward Fitri stunned Indian goalie PR Sreejesh with a reverse hit to enhance the lead to three nil in the 27th minute.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 32nd minute, but vice-captain V R Raghunath could not make any difference to the scoreboard. India also wasted two more penalty corners in the first half.
Fitri again struck in the 27th minute to make it 3-0 and give Malaysia much hope at the half-time break.
Within three minutes after change of sides, Faizal Saari made it 4-0 for Malaysia when he ran down from the right flank, beat Raghunath before finding the target.
India woke up late with Brendra Lakra striking first in the 47th minute. He latched on to a long corner and had all the time in the world to smash the ball past Malaysian goalkeeper.
Newcomer Pradhan Sommana set up SV Sunil to reduce the margin. He sent a cross from the left flank which Sunil connected to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute.
Raghunath, who missed many penalty corners, provided much relief with a goal in the next minute as India continued to inch their way back in the contest. Malaysia kept up the attack and got dividends when Azammi Adabi scored through a laborious field effort to make it 5-3.