Captain Baichung Bhutia came off the bench to earn India a 1-1 draw with defending AFC Challenge Cup champions Tajikistan in Group A, in Hyderabad, on Friday.
The point from the match kept India, who beat Afghanistan 1-0 in their opening match, in the race for a place in the semi-finals.
Substitute Bhutia scored on the hour mark after Tajikistan's Yusuf Rabiev opened the scoring after just 10 minutes.
The draw leaves India with four points, while Tajikistan were forced to settle for their second draw in the competition.
Tajikistan made an impressive start and broke the deadlock when Rabiev scored following a cross from Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov.
But India, who made six changes to the team, regrouped after withstanding pressure. With half-time approaching, they had a good chance to restore parity but Sunil Chettri shot straight into Tajikistan goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev.
Sushil Kumar also had a chance to equalise, but after collecting a pass from strike partner Chettri, he dispatched a feeble shot.
After the break, the introduction of Bhutia infused life in the Indians' attacks. Only minutes after replacing Sushil Kumar, the dashing striker charged into the area and did well to head home powerfully a cross from Steven Diasand to draw India abreast.
India then seized the initiative and took the challenge to Tajikistan, but Bhutia was unlucky to see his shot skim past the post, and Dias's free-kick clipped the crossbar.
India goalkeeper Subrata Pal then did well to save strikes from Shohzukhurov and Tukhtasunov in the closing stages, before the hosts survived a late scare when Rabiev struck the upright.