Holders Albirex Niigata (S) are now firm favourites to make the Singapore Cup final after dispatching Home United 3-1 in the first leg of their semifinal at Jurong East Stadium on Wednesday night.
Second-half goals from Hiroyoshi Kamata and Kento Nagasaki proved to be the difference after Faris Ramli had cancelled out Ryota Nakai's early opener for the White Swans.
It was Albirex's 26th consecutive win in all competitions at their home ground after the visitors had missed a first-half penalty.
Boosted by the return of top scorer Tsubasa Sano from a two-match suspension, Albirex got off to the best possible start by scoring inside three minutes.
Sano's powerful shot drew a superb save from Home goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, but Nakai was on home to turn home the rebound.
That goal woke Home up from their slumber, with Adam Swandi testing Yosuke Nozawa with a speculative drive on 10 minutes.
The Protectors would draw level seven minutes later, with Faris producing a stunning 20-yard curler that arrowed right into the top right corner -- leaving Nozawa with no chance at all.
Aidil Sharin's men grew in confidence and could have gone ahead in the 27th minute when Irfan Fandi brought down in the area by Yasutaka Yanagi.
However, Stipe Plazibat's resulting penalty came off the right-hand post before Nozawa collected the loose ball.
Albirex then went close on the stroke of half-time, with Tomoki Menda's header from Kento Nagasaki's corner going straight to Hassan.
The White Swans carried where they left off after the restart, with Nakai forcing Hassan into a close-range save.
Kazuaki Yoshinaga's side would duly make it 2-1 in the 57th minute, with Kamata's cross from the left eluding everyone before creeping inside Hassan's near post.
The Japanese outfit doubled their advantage on 76 minutes, with Nagasaki bending home a trademark free kick from the edge of the box.
Adam did have a chance to pull one back for Home nine minutes later, but sent his first-time volley straight to Nozawa.
Home will now have to come back from two goals down in the second leg at Bishan Stadium on Saturday night to make their first Singapore Cup final since 2013.
In Wednesday night's other semi-final first-leg game, Hougang United held Philippines invitees Global-Cebu to a 2-2 draw at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Fabian Kwok scored five minutes from time to ensure the tie is finely poised going into Saturday's second leg at Hougang Stadium, after a Darryl Roberts double cancelled out Delwinder Singh's opener for the Cheetahs.
Albirex Niigata (S): Yosuke Nozawa (GK), Tomoki Menda, Yasutaka Yanagi, Takuya Akiyama, Naofumi Tanaka, Shoichiro Sakamoto (Shoma Kondo 90'), Hiroyoshi Kamata, Shuto Inaba (C), Kento Nagasaki, Ryota Nakai (Koki Sato 90'), Tsubasa Sano (Rui Kumada 85')
Home United: Hassan Sunny (GK, C), Juma'at Jantan, Hariss Harun, Irfan Fandi, Sufianto Salleh, Shamil Sharif (Marijan Suto 72'), Song Uiyoung (Iqram Rifqi 82'), Izzdin Shafiq, Adam Swandi, Faris Ramli, Stipe Plazibat