An adroit time-out by Chinese pair Zhu Yuling and Chen Meng snuffed out Singapore duo Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu's dreams of reaching the final of the World Table Tennis Championships.
Down two games to one in the best-of-seven doubles semi-final, the momentum swung in Feng and Yu's favour in the fourth game as they won two straight points to make it 8-9.
Sensing that the tide could turn, the Chinese third seeds quickly called a time-out, all but killing their opponents' impetus.
They won the next three points to take the game and eventually prevailed 4-1 (11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7).
Still, Feng and Yu can take satisfaction from their creditable showing in Dusseldorf, Germany, where the competition was held.
After all, they last played as a pair at the Swedish Open in November 2015, and Yu is featuring in only her second tournament since returning from shoulder surgery in November.
Reflecting on the loss, world No. 4 Feng, who has not been part of the national set-up since her axing from the Singapore Table Tennis Association fold last October, said: "We were playing China so we really gave it our all but our opponents controlled the game very well and we felt very restricted."
In the post-match interview, Zhu said: "I have experience playing both Feng and Yu. We prepared very well for our opponents and we controlled the tempo of the game."
Defeat meant the Singapore pair, seeded 11th, had to settle for a bronze medal, matching their efforts in the 2013 and 2015 editions.
The World Championships alternate between the team and individual formats each year.
Feng added: "It was not easy for us to get to the semi-finals.
"We're quite happy to reach the top four for the third time, but we were also hoping for a breakthrough.
"It was good we didn't let our heads down despite trailing but I think we needed to be more confident.
"We have some regrets but we're looking forward to giving our best in the next tournament."
Their elimination wrapped up Singapore's participation at the championships.
Earlier, Feng had reached the quarter-finals of the singles but lost to Japan's world No. 8 Miu Hirano 5-11, 2-11, 16-18, 5-11.
In the men's singles, Ethan Poh and Clarence Chew fell in the round of 128, while Gao Ning lost in the round of 64. Gao partnered Pang Xue Jie in the doubles and lost in the round of 16.
Yu and Pang lost in the mixed doubles round of 32, while Yu also lost in the round of 64 in the singles.
In the women's doubles final, an all-China affair saw Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning beat Zhu and Cheng 4-3 (9-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9).