Sydney FC frustrated Kawasaki Frontale for more than 80 minutes before slipping to a 1-0 loss in their second AFC Champions League fixture on Wednesday.
Substitute Manabu Saito made the difference seven minutes from full-time as his clever finish ended the visitors' stoic resistance at Todoroki Athletics Stadium.
Andrew Redmayne's heroics had looked set to earn Steve Corica's men their second successive goalless draw, but the J-League champions were not to be denied a maiden victory in Group H.
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Sydney FC opted to omit Josh Brilliante from their starting XI due to concerns over the midfielder's "frame of mind" amid transfer interest from overseas.
Alex Brosque might have broken the deadlock inside eight minutes had his header from Rhyan Grant's cross been either side of keeper Jung Sung-ryong.
Brazil international Leandro Damiao tried his luck on two occasions before the break, with Redmayne required to tip the second effort over the crossbar.
The Sky Blues gloveman continued his fine form after the interval.
He first turned a curling Tatsuya Hasegawa attempt around the left post and then, from the resultant corner, flew to his right to palm clear Hidemasa Morita's thumping volley.
After holding Hasegawa's close-range toepoke, an inspired Redmayne next denied Ao Tanaka in the box, with Kei Chinen blasting over on the follow-up.
Kawasaki, who lost their Group H opener against Shanghai SIPG last week, continued to push for a winner and the breakthrough finally came through Saito, the midfielder instinctively tucking home through a crowd of bodies in the box.
Sydney FC will aim to bounce back by claiming their first win of the campaign when Shanghai - beaten 1-0 by Ulsan Hyundai elsewhere on Wednesday - visit Jubilee Oval on April 10.