By Khidhir Kassim
Negri started the game well but failed to convert their chances and were made to pay in the second half when ATM controlled the game and opened the scoring with D. Christie Jayaseelan's shot in the 55th minute, before Bruno Martelotto doubled the scoreline five minutes later from Marlon Alex James' pass.
A blunder by goalkeeper Farizal Harun, who kicked straight into Firdaus Azizul, allowed the substitute to pull one back for the visitors in the 72nd minute but the evergreen Hairuddin Omar restored the lead seven minutes later with a brilliant curler past Farizal Marlias.
Shakir Ali then gave the Deer a lifeline with a beautiful scissors-kick two minutes from time to keep his team's hopes alive ahead of Tuesday's return encounter.
Here, ESPNSTAR.my takes a look at the movers and shakers from Friday's game at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium.
Farizal Harun - 5
The former Negri stalwart didn't have much to do in the first half with the visiting strikers wasting glorious chances and made an awful howler which allowed them back into the game. He did however redeem himself with a save in the dying minutes of the game to keep out Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona's goal-bound header.
Azmi Muslim - 7
A solid presence at right back, he proved his ability when he seamlessly moved to the other flank to accommodate the introduction of K. Reuben late in the first half.
Azmi put in plenty of effort in supporting his attacking team-mates as well and can be pleased with his display.
Aidil Zafuan - 6.5
The Harimau Malaya star commanded his backline well enough and was a real calming influence whenever Negri pushed forward.
Moreover, he was also excellent against the physical Effa Owona and rendered him ineffective for much of the match.
Fitri Omar (off 40') - 4
It remains to be seen why Fitri was taken off shortly before halftime as he didn't appear to have picked up an injury, and had done well to contain his opponent while on the pitch.
His partnership with Aidil looks promising even though they didn't have too much time to shine together on the night.
Irwan Fadzli Idrus - 6
Closed down Shahurain quickly so much so that the winger shifted flanks and attempted to pass out instead of his usual play of taking his man on.
He also worked well with Christie down his flank but needs to do better in set-pieces.
Zaquan Adha (off 82') - 7.5
Aidil's twin brother worked tirelessly down the right flank and was a consistent player throughout the game.
The 25-year-old created space well for his team with his intelligent movement, dragging his markers all over the place, and he also held the ball up well and won possession in dangerous areas.
Zaquan also laid on an assist for Christie, although he probably didn't mean it as he appeared to go straight for goal but could only scuff a shot into his team-mate's path.
Rezal Zambery - 6.5
A midfield dynamo, Rezal defended his backline well and forced Negri to resort to attacking down the flanks instead of through the middle.
His presence allowed his team-mates to pour forward confidently, safe in the knowledge that he was back there to prevent any counterattacks.
Hairuddin Omar - 8.5
Inspiring as captain, the man affectionately known as 'Hai-O' was the architect behind ATM's fluid play and also spent an equal amount of time stopping Negri from running rampant in the midfield.
His tigerish approach earned him plenty of respect from his opponents, which in turn gave him more space and time on the ball to which he put to devastating use. He was the launch pad for almost all of the Army Boys' attacks and Negri will do well to control him in the second leg.
And we haven't even mentioned his 79th-minute winner - a sublime curling effort into the top corner after latching onto a loose ball on the edge of the area, that left Farizal Marlias looking on in admiration.
D. Christie Jayaseelan - 8
His silky skills on the ball were a joy to watch and his sheer speed left the Negri full-backs chasing his shadow for much of the game.
Christie also showed great composure by scoring the opening goal after creating space for himself with a deft touch in the box, and it remains only a matter of time before he becomes a regular for Malaysia if he continues improving at the current rate.
Bruno Martelotto - 7.5
The Argentinean playmaker gave a classy display with his pirouettes and vision on the ball.
Linked well with Marlon Alex James and but needs to add bite to his defensive responsibilities. A star player who is capable of passing his way out of trouble and into goal-scoring opportunities, Martelotto also showed good goal-scoring instincts to net his side's second.
Marlon Alex James - 7
For a 35-year-old, the Vincentian striker easily ghosted past players almost half his age and was a nightmare for Marian Farbak, who spent half his time on the field looking around for his opponent.
Unselfish and wily, his passes are as dangerous as his strikes. He remains a major asset for ATM and puts other players to shame with tireless display of endeavour.
K. Reuben (on 40') - 6
The youngster gave a solid display at right-back and clamped down on his opponents well enough, but let Shahurain Abu Samah overcome him with pace.
However, based on this performance, Reuben looks likely to struggle against pacey wingers in full flight, and his inclination to commit early may lead to costly mistakes if he doesn't work on his composure.
Venice Elphi (on 82') - 5
Venice proved a lively substitute but did not get enough time to shine.
Farizal Marlias - 6.5
Unlike his opposite number, Farizal wasn't at fault for any of the ATM goals and was let down by some very poor defending from his team-mates.
Apart from that, the Malaysia international did well with a couple of routine saves and catches.
S. Kunanlan - 7
The pacey Kunanlan looked slightly frustrated having to play a defensive role at right-back but to his credit, he stuck at his task all evening long and didn't look out of place most of the time.
He also showed plenty of initiative to get forward whenever possible and nearly laid on the perfect cross for Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona in the 94th minute, only to see Farizal Harun keep out the Cameroonian's header with a smart save.
Marian Farbak - 3
Farbak has had an awful year and based on Friday's display, it's unlikely the Deer hierarchy would want to keep him around for much longer.
The Slovak was exposed time and time again by James and even lost out to the 35-year-old in pace, and was one of the main reasons why the visitors were exposed at the back.
Shukor Adan - 8
If not for their talismanic skipper, it is likely Negri would have lost by a bigger margin on the night.
Shukor showed an impeccable reading of the game and bailed Farbak out on countless occasions with timely interceptions. Furthermore, he also took the game by the scruff of its neck and tried to get his team on the front foot with a number of searching passes.
Azmeer Yusof - 5
The on-loan 22-year-old was one player that must have been delighted to see Zaquan Adha replaced in the 82nd minute as he was given a torrid time by the ATM forward.
Shahurain Abu Samah - 6.5
Shahurain tried his best all evening long and gave Reuben real problems down the flanks, although his final delivery was lacking at times.
Rashid Mamud - 4
Negri coach Azraai Khor Abdullah must have been left fuming as Rashid, deployed as an anchorman, failed to offer his backline any protection whatsoever.
The veteran was tricked far too easily by Christie's feint in the build-up to the hosts' opener, and inexplicably fell over at a crucial moment before Martoletto grabbed a second for ATM.
Idris Abdul Karim (off 75') - 7
Unlike Rashid, Idris worked his socks off all evening long and did what was asked of him, which made it a real surprise he was taken off 15 minutes from time instead of his ineffective central-midfield partner.
K. Thanaraj (off 46') - 7.5
Equally surprising was the substitution of Thanaraj at the break, given he was one of Negri's most lively players in the first half.
The Sabah winger, who is on loan at the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Stadium for the duration of the Malaysia Cup, came close to opening the scoring early on when he found space inside the area and drilled a low effort past Farizal Harun, and was unlucky to see his strike come back off the foot of the post.
Khairul Izuan (off 66') - 6.5
Another one of the Deer's loan signings, Khairul looked slightly lost up front as his lack of top-flight experienced showed, having spent just one season playing in the Super League back in 2009 with PDRM.
Jean-Emmanuel Effa Owona - 7
Effa Owona posed a real threat to ATM all evening long, although he was well marshalled in the second half.
The Cameroonian was slightly selfish when he did receive possession, although he did extremely well in injury-time when he nearly equalised with a powerful header, only to be denied by Farizal Harun.
Firdaus Azizul (on 46') - 7
Despite a slow start following his introduction, Firdaus eventually got into the game and never missed an opportunity to run at the Armed Forces backline.
Nonetheless, there was an element of luck involved in his goal as he knew little about Farizal Harun's clearance that smashed into his back and looped straight back into the unguarded goal.
Shakir Ali (on 66') - 7.5
It was a slight surprise to see Shakir start on the bench but he came on and had an instant impact as his pace and strength really gave the ATM defenders something to think about.
He then proceeded to net one of the goals of the season when he executed a scissors-kick that sent the ball arrowing into the bottom corner, after Norismaidham Ismail's initial volley had come back off the crossbar.
Norismaidham Ismail (on 75') - 7
The midfielder was effective despite only being on the field for 15 minutes, and retained possession well for Negri.