KUALA LUMPUR - Despite missing top-ranked player Gao Ning, Singapore's men made third seeds Japan work for their win on Day Two of the World Team Table Tennis Championships on Monday.
The eventually lost 1-3, but the trio of Pang Xue Jie, Yang Zi and Clarence Chew, who are not ranked among the world's top 100, did well to stretch the Japanese - all within the world's top 30 - to five games in all their matches.
Their day began ominously as world No. 21 Gao, who had sprained his ankle in Sunday's defeat by Poland, could not recover in time.
Pang, whose world ranking dropped to 334 after a period of inactivity owing to national service, was chosen to fill the void created by Gao's absence.
And the 22-year-old proved to be a worthy replacement.
Up first against Japan's world No. 14 Koki Niwa, Pang, who is still going through national service, scored a major upset, beating Niwa 11-4, 2-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-8 for Singapore's only point.
World No. 163 Yang Zi lost to world No. 20 Yuya Oshima 5-9, 14-12, 12-10, 8-11, 4-11, while world No. 176 Clarence Chew lost to Maharu Yoshimura, ranked 24th in the world, 11-9, 12-14, 4-11, 11-6, 9-11 .
Niwa then made amends for his loss by beating Yang 8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-3 in the fourth singles.
The men, who reached the quarter-finals in the last edition, play Portugal in the evening at 7.30pm.