With central defenders Paul Cunningham and Goran Subara impressive at the back, Ruhaizad Ismail's cool finish past Sasa Dreven in the 85th minute proved enough for a classy Balestier to claim all three points, and leave Tampines, in the wake of their opening 2-2 draw away at Brunei DPMM, still looking for their first win of the new Great Eastern-YEO'S S.league season.
An Aleksandar Duric header which was smartly turned away by Balestier goalkeeper Joey Sim, as well as Davor Piskor's 39th minute shot against an upright, represented the best chances for Tampines on a night they were largely outplayed by Darren Stewart's charges who now have four points to their name after last week's draw with Home United.
"We just did not turn up for the game, and we looked sluggish from the start," Tampines coach Steven Tan told reporters after the game at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"We weren't composed as a team on the ball, and we didn't show enough authority as defending champions. The performance was uncharacteristic of Tampines," he added.
Not surprisingly, Stewart was a happy man following the result which, albeit temporarily, took his side to the top of the table.
"Magnificent," the Australian said of his side's display.
"There was a lot of hard work - you can't beat the champions without hard work - and I thought our composure on the ball, was good."
Balestier next entertain Gombak United on March 4, while, due to AFC Cup commitments, Tampines must wait until their March 9 clash with Woodlands Wellington to get their season back on track.