India's hopes of qualifying for the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament were dashed after they suffered their third defeat in the event, losing 0-2 to defending champions New Zealand in their penultimate round-robin match in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Thursday.
The five-time champions needed a victory to stay in the reckoning. Instead, it was the Black Sticks who scored twice in the second half to stay in the hunt.
The Kiwis struck through Andy Hayward from their second penalty-corner in the 40th minute before Cory Bennett took the match out of India's reach, scoring the team's second goal in the 55th minute.
Despite a 3-3 draw against Korea earlier in the day, six-time champions Australia are still atop the table with eight points from four games, followed by hosts Malaysia (8) and New Zealand (6), who leapfrogged to third by virtue Thursday’s victory.
Giant-killers Malaysia held Pakistan to a 2-2 draw in the day’s last match to maintain their unbeaten run.
The draw means Pakistan are out of the final race along with India and Korea. Both Korea and Pakistan have four points from as many matches, while India could manage only three from four outings.
New Zealand, with six points from four outings, is the only other team in the race for a place in Sunday's summit clash.
To seal a final berth, New Zealand need to beat Australia in Saturday’s Trans-Trasman clash.
For both Australia and Malaysia, a draw in their final round-robin games will be enough to seal a place in the final.
Having won only one match (against Pakistan) out of the four played so far, India are out of the reckoning and will take on Malaysia in their last league fixture on Saturday.
India had earlier lost to Australia and Korea in their opening games.