For one half, Singapore had the upper hand against their nearest rivals at the Asian Water Polo Cup. Winning the trophy was within grasp.
Then, it all slipped away in the second half of their match against Iran on Saturday at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, as they fell 6-10 after leading 4-3 at half-time.
The two sides had gone into the match having won all their previous matches in the six-team competition.
While a draw would be enough for Iran, Singapore needed an upset win to be champions.
Singapore coach Lee Sai Meng was therefore left to rue a poor second- half performance, as his fast-tiring side allowed Iran to pull away.
He said: "Definitely we dropped a little bit physically in the second half. They controlled the tempo very well, and struck us when we were at our weakest."
Yet, both sides were neck-and-neck in the first half, neither able to pull away by more than one goal.
The hosts opened the scoring through captain Eugene Teo to loud cheers from the crowd, although Iran quickly pulled one back.
Both sides continued trading blows until, with the clock winding down in the second quarter, Chiam Kun Yang fired Singapore into the lead with a shot into the top corner.
However, a tactical switch by Iran at half-time proved decisive.
Said their captain Amirhossein Ghahjavarestani Khani: "We decided to focus on defence, and to attack down the wings, especially down the left. At that moment, Singapore's right side was weaker."