DUBAI • Son Heung-min's South Korea needed an extra-time winner to beat world No. 113 Bahrain 2-1 yesterday as they stumbled into the Asian Cup quarter-finals in unconvincing fashion.
Substitute Kim Jin-su's diving header at the end of the first extra period proved the difference as the two-time champions met unexpected resistance in Dubai.
But Paulo Bento's side, runners-up in 2015 and one of the favourites for the title, survived to reach the last eight, where they will face Qatar or 2007 winners Iraq.
Tottenham Hotspur star Son took a boot to the head as he weathered some robust challenges in a first half South Korea dominated with 73 per cent of possession.
Bahrain gave the Koreans an early scare with Mohamed Marhoon's stinging shot, as the Asian powerhouses took time to settle into their rhythm.
Son then started to make his presence felt with some typically direct running which caused panic in the Bahrain defence.
South Korea broke the deadlock two minutes before half-time when Son laid off to Lee Yong whose cross was parried by Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Shubbar Alawi to Hwang Hee-chan, who duly converted the easy chance.
South Korea threatened to run riot after the break before Bahrain hit back and it took a magnificent stop from Kim Seung-gyu to keep out Jamal Rashed's effort.
And, against all expectations, Bahrain drew level with 13 minutes remaining, when Mohamed Al-Romaihi smashed in the rebound from Mahdi Al-Humaidan's shot.
Hwang Ui-jo nearly snatched the victory in injury time when a defensive mix-up put him one on one with Alawi, but he spooned his shot wide to set up the additional 30 minutes of play.
South Korea's first goal had been their only shot on target, but they looked determined to put that right and substitute Lee Seung-woo should have done better when he was set up in the box by Son's strong run.
Bahrain goalkeeper Alawi withdrew with an apparent hamstring injury but, one of the first tasks for his replacement, Abdulkarim Fardan, was to pick the ball out of the net.
Left-back Kim found time and space to steady himself and drive home a header from Lee Yong's cross, a goal which the team celebrated by holding up the No. 16 shirt of injured Newcastle United midfielder Ki Sung-yueng.
Ju Se-jong also rammed a shot against the post in a positive finish for the Koreans and, while they celebrated their victory, there were tears from the Bahrainis at the final whistle.