Japan gave up a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with China in the second match of the EAFF East Asian Cup at Seoul Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
With Australia and hosts South Korea sharing the spoils in a 0-0 draw to open the competition one day earlier, Alberto Zaccheroni's team had an opportunity to take control of the tournament, but were surprised by a late comeback from their unfancied opponents.
China, coached by caretaker Fu Bo following the departure of Jose Antonio Camacho last month, took a shock early lead, but then allowed Japan to equalise before the break.
Japan went on to take complete control of the contest thanks to two goals in the space of three second-half minutes but they could do nothing to prevent China's unexpected smash and grab, as their two late strikes earned them a draw.
All four teams in the tournament now have one point, leaving the competition wide open.
China, looking to make amends for a string of woeful recent results, started brightly and were rewarded after just four minutes, when Yuzo Kurihara fouled Yu Dabao inside the penalty area, and Wang Yongpo made no mistake from the spot.
Japan probed in search of an equaliser and although Haraguchi Genki wasted a good chance, Kurihara made amends for his earlier error in the 33rd minute when he headed the equaliser from close range.
China came close to restoring their advantage in the 43rd minute, when Shusaku Nishikawa had to get down low to tip Yu's shot inches wide of the post, following some terrific skill by Gao Lin.
Japan burst out of the blocks in the second half and they took the lead on 59 minutes, as Yoichiro Kakitani headed home Tomoaki Makino's cross.
And China were caught napping soon after the restart, when a clever long ball from Toshihiro Aoyama played Kakitani in behind.
The Cerezo Osaka forward drove for goal before prodding the ball to Masato Kudo, who finished calmly across the goalkeeper.
China were initially rocked by the concession of two quick goals but they eventually responded, as Wang hit the crossbar, before they earned a penalty in the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
Wang netted the spot-kick and back to within a goal and their confidence restored, China pressed on in search of an equaliser.
And it arrived through Sun Ke, who got in behind the Japan defence to guide a cross beyond Nishikawa, as China - against the odds - avoided defeat for the first time in their last four matches.
Zaccheroni will surely be furious with the result, and will expect better against Australia on Thursday.
China's next match is against South Korea at Hwaseong Stadium on Wednesday.
All matches from the EAFF East Asian Cup are being broadcast live on Fox Sports
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