By Gabriel Tan at the Toa Payoh Stadium
Zulkiffli Hassim scored the only goal of the game in the 24th minute with a fine solo effort, before a resilient second-half display from the Tigers guided them to all three points as they repelled everything the Protectors threw at them.
The victory was especially vital considering Balestier were looking to revive their title hopes after losing consecutive matches to Tanjong Pagar United and leaders DPMM FC at the end of the first round, and they are now just five points off the table in fifth.
The Tigers received a huge boost before the game as key midfield duo Tengku Mushadad and Park Kang-jin were both passed fit despite injury clouds hanging over them all week, while defender Goran Subara returned for his first game since suffering multiple fractures in his wrist back in April.
Home, on the other hand, were without captain Shi Jiayi, who was restricted to a spot on the bench, and his absence was telling early on as the visitors struggled to gain control of the midfield battle, an area of the park they normally dominate.
Instead, it was the Tigers who started the brighter and they carved out the first chance of the game in the 14th minute when Zulkiffli won possession on the edge of the area and drilled in a left-footed effort that forced Lionel Lewis into a good save.
However, there was little the Protectors custodian could do ten minutes later when the flying Balestier winger once again raced down the right, before cutting inside a defender and drilling a shot in off the far post to give his side the lead.
Four minutes after the half-hour mark, the hosts nearly doubled their lead when Subara met an inswinging corner from Tengku and glanced a header back off the crossbar.
Till that point, the returning Tigers centre-back had been having an excellent game but his lack of match practice nearly cost his side three minutes later, when he briefly hesitated on the ball and allowed Frederic Mendy to nick it off him and race into the area. Unfortunately for the visitors, the usually-clinical Frenchman failed to get his shot on target as Balestier held on for the lead at the break.
However, that nearly changed two minutes into the second half when Protectors forward Qiu Li curled in a freekick from the left that dipped just over the far corner, before the Tigers raced straight up the other end and won a corner, from which Paul Cunningham met and powered a firm header towards goal, only to see it cleared off the line by Nor Azli Yusoff.
Five minutes after the hour mark, the hosts conceded yet another freekick in a dangerous position and this time, Qiu came even closer with a delicate effort that came smashing back off the crossbar.
Aware that their opponents were starting to gain the ascendancy, Balestier started to push forward in search of a killer blow, which they nearly achieved in the 73rd minute when Hamqaamal Shah picked up possession down the left and laid the ball back to Syed Thaha, who fizzed an effort right across the face of goal.
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Now desperate to force an equaliser and salvage a share of the spoils, Home resorted to long-ball tactics in the dying moments of the game but the aerial threat of Mendy was well quelled by the dominant Cunningham. Instead, their final chance fell to John Wilkinson in the 87th minute when he found space just inside the area, but more desperate defending from the hosts saw his shot deflect over, as Balestier held on for a vital three points.
Balestier Khalsa: Zakariah Nerani, Jaslee Hatta (Yusiskandar Yusop 87'), Goran Subara, Paul Cunningham, Syed Thaha, Zulkiffli Hassim, Shafuan Sutomoh, Tengku Mushadad, Hamqaamal Shah (Ruhaizad Ismail 80'), Park Kang-jin (Muhaymin Salim 78'), Kim Min-ho.
Home United: Lionel Lewis, Rosman Sulaiman, Sofiyan Abdul Hamid, Nor Azli Yusoff, Kenji Arai, Jeremy Chiang (Masrezwan Masturi 46', Rhysh Roshan Rai 78'), Firdaus Idros (Indra Sahdan Daud 88'), John Wilkinson, Shotaro Ihata, Qiu Li, Frederic Mendy.