Ramandeep Singh scored two fine goals as the showpiece subcontinental hockey encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw in the World League semi-finals at the KHC Dragons Stadium in Antwerp.
Asian Games champions India were threatening to score a late match-winner when their strikers thrice took shots at the rival citadel in the last three minutes during a surcharged encounter played at a brisk pace.
After opening the scoring in the 13th minute, Ramandeep came back to score the eventual equaliser with an opportunistic flick into the net in the 39th minute after Pakistan captain Muhammad Imran scored twice.
Imran's two goals came off a penalty stroke in the 28th minute and through a rasping penalty corner drag-flick in the in the 37th.
The Indian defence gave a fine exhibition, but there were a lot of wayward marksmanship by their strikers as Pakistan also fell back to defend stoutly in the first encounter since the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
Pakistan won that Champions Trophy semifinal contest at Bhubaneswar in December by one goal, but obscene gestures in the onfield victory celebrations led to suspensions of two Pakistan players.
The draw gives India seven points from three outings in Pool A ahead of the fixture against World champions Australia. Pakistan now have four points from three matches, having lost the match against Australia.
India enjoyed some early domination in an exhibition of clean hockey by both sub-continental teams. Both India and Pakistan built their attacks on counters and the period of clean tackling was disturbed when Pakistan striker Muhammad Rizwan Junior's swinging stick hit Yuvraj Walmiki on his right knee.
Yuvraj had to undergo a long period of ice-pack treatment on the bench before he was seen in action again late in the first half.
India took the lead in the 13th minute with a diving deflection by Ramandeep, who capitalised on Gurmail Singh's diagonal cross from left into the circle.
At the other end of the pitch, Indian goalkeeper P R Sreejesh had to pad away a long cross to ward off any danger. India posed a threat to the Pakistan circle again in the 15th minute when Gurbaj's cross from right found Satbir Singh inside the circle, but Satbir could not control the ball that came through several legs.
Pakistan forced two successive penalty corners in the 22nd minute in a period of domination, during which they equalised. The ball struck Indian defender Jasjit Singh's foot on the goalline, causing a penalty stroke that was duly converted by captain Muhammad Imran.
In the process, India also lost their referral. India forced their first penalty corner in the 28th minute when Satbir's cross from right was carried by a defender.
As penalty corner specialist Rupinder Pal Singh was not fielded, the shot was taken by Manpreet Singh and was palmed back by the goalkeeper. The ball struck onrushing striker Yuvraj on the thigh, but they did not have the right of referral and the umpire waved away the protests.
India were awarded their second penalty corner when Satbir was obstructed from taking a shot inside the circle, but it was cancelled as he tried the shot after the umpire had blown the whistle.
Satbir was also shown the yellow card, and had to sit out for 10 minutes in the second session, which India played with 10 players throughout the third quarter.
Just before Satbir was called back to the field, Devindar Walmiki got a yellow card for a foul deep inside the Indian territory.
Pakistan went 2-1 ahead on their third penalty corner as Imran scored his second goal with a rasping drag-flick that went into the net in the 37th minute.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Ramandeep equalized by shooting on target with an opportunistic strike on a through ball from the right flank.
Image: India's players celebrate after scoring
Photograph: Hockey India