India rode on Sandeep Singh's brilliance to virtually seal its place in the final of the men's hockey Olympic Qualification tournament after defeating Canada 3-2 in a hard-fought round-robin match in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Sandeep (40th minute, 61st) converted two penalty corners to not only see India through in the pulsating encounter, but also increase his goal-tally to nine in the tournament.
Shivendra Singh (26th) scored the other goal for India, while Mark Pearson (50th) and Scot Tupper (53rd) found the target for Canada.
With four wins out of four matches, India are more or less are through to the summit clash of the tournament unless some surprising results in the last round of games hurt their cause.
A draw in the final match against Poland on Friday would be enough for the hosts to secure their place in the title clash.
Despite two wins and two defeats from four matches, the 14th ranked Canadians are still in the fray for place in the final. They will now have to beat France in their last match and hope India beat Poland.
With nine points apiece, Poland and France are also in with a chance as the men's pool is still open going into the last round of games.
India were lackluster in the beginning and lost the ball frequently in the mid-field. Even though India had the bulk of possession in the first half, they lacked finishing inside the D. Initially, the Indians were also undone by a resolute and agile Candian defensive line.
Earlier, Poland and France kept alive their hopes of making it to the final of the qualifier, defeating minnows Singapore and Italy in their respective matches, in Delhi, on Wednesday.
While Poland spanked the young Singapore team 11-3, France beat Italy 3-0 in the day's first two matches of the men's competition.
By virtue of the victories, both Poland and France have nine points from four outings, but the former are in second place in the points table, ahead of the French on better goal difference.
France plays higher-ranked Canada in their last round-robin match on Friday while Poland are up against favourites and table leaders India.
Poland scored through Szymon Oszyjczyk (three goals), Mateusz Poltaszewski (two), Michal Nowakowski, Miroslav Juszczak, Bartosz Zywiczka, Arthur Mikula, Tomasz Gorny and Waldemar Rataj.
For Singapore, Farhan Kamsani scored twice while Fazri Jailani accounted for the third goal in the last minute of the match.
France, who registered victories over Poland and Singapore, needed a win to stay afloat in the competition after the loss to India on Tuesday night.
But the Italians put up stubborn resistance in the first-half as France wasted a series of penalty-corners.
The French were also denied multiple times by an excellent Davide Guida in the Italian goal.
Despite dominating, France failed to penetrate a regrouped Italian defense and the opening half ended goalless.
France forged ahead in the 43rd minute when captain Arnaud Becuwe scored a field goal.
Martin Genestet then increased the lead from a penalty-corner before Frederic Verrier made the score line 3-0, converting another penalty-corner.