By Abhishek Mehrotra
Tampines had gone one down when the returning Anaz Hadee headed into his own net, but Jamil Ali's strike and Toto's error two minutes later saved the defender from embarrassment and allowed his side to record their first win in three S.League games.
Young Lions started the game with a flurry of corners but once the home side settled, the visitors seemed content to soak up the pressure and attack on the counter through pacy winger Sherif El-Masri and powerful forward Toto.
It was no surprise then that the Stags enjoyed the majority of possession - with Imran Sahib, returning after suspension, Ahmad Latiff and the free-roaming Jamil Ali getting a lot of joy on the right.
Latiff, who had a disappointing outing last week in the 1-0 loss to SAFFC, hit the first shot in anger in the ninth minute- a wild strike that disappeared into the night - but then settled down well, sending in a low inswinging cross for Aleksandar Duric that forced Sirina Camara into a lunging clearance.
Imran was next to threaten the visitors, pouncing on a loose pass from Sherif El-Masri and rampaging into the area before cutting back just behind Duric. The striker did well to swivel and get a shot off, but Faritz Hameed got in a great block with keeper Syazwan Buhari beaten.
Young Lions finally managed to get a breather when Toto won a free-kick in a good position after being fouled by Hadee but saw the disappointing Fazli Ayob blast it well over. More good work, this time by El-Masri won the Young Lions a corner but Benoit Croissant, who was excellent on the night, did well to clear with opposition players lurking just behind.
These were mere breaks in waves of Tampines attacks and match reverted to type soon after as Imran, Gligor Gligorov and Sazali Salleh all saw their crosses scrambled clear by the Young Lions defence.
If coach Steven Tan cut a frustrated figure on the sideline, having seen his side enjoy so much possession with little reward, his anger probably knew no bounds when a piece of schoolboy defending saw his side concede against the run of play on the stroke of half-time.
When Shafiq Ghani played a long crossfield ball for El-Masri on the left, Anaz Hadee seemed to have it well covered, but keeper Sasa Dreven made a huge error in judgement, rushing out to clear, only to see Hadee's headed backpass trickle past him and over the line.
Shocked by going down at such a crucial time in the game, the Stags charged out after the break, with skipper Duric, who had not seen much of the ball earlier, looking immensely threatening in a wider position on the left.
The marksman won a corner for his side before teeing up Latiff on the edge of the area, but lost his footing in the process and the winger's low drive bounced back off his legs.
Duric then played Jamil in on the right, but the latter's centre back to his captain lacked any sort of venom, allowing the Young Lions' defence to hoof clear once again. The Singapore striker was to be denied yet again soon after when a great backheel by Imran allowed Latiff to get to the byline, and the winger looked to have set up Duric perfectly with a great cutback - only for the ball to take a bad bounce just as he was shaping to shoot.
But Tampines were not to be denied for long. Latiff's pass found Duric right in the centre of the Young Lions' area, and the burly striker did well to play the ball in the path of the onrushing Jamil despite the close attentions of Sheikh Abdul Hadi and Jamil made no mistake, coolly slotting the ball past Syazwan to bring his side back on level terms.
Having spent 270 minutes without a goal, the Stags got two within two minutes, albeit with the help of some good fortune - when Toto, under pressure from Duric headed the ball into his own net off a Gligorov corner. 2-1 to the home side and no less than they deserved.
To their credit Young Lions did not let their heads hang for long, with crafty substitute Benjamin Kristoffersen in particular causing problems for o the Rovers down the centre. It was off a corner won by the midfielder that the Young Lions got the first of two good chances to equalise. Sasa dropped the ball right at the feet of Sirina Camara five yards from goal, but then did made amends quickly - getting down well to stop a drilled effort from the Frenchman.
With only seven minutes remaining, the visitors' captain Hafiz Sujad created the next opening, waltzing past two defenders before letting loose a left-footed shot that Sasa did superbly to keep out despite the ball having taken a deflection on the way.
The Young Lions were committing bodies forward, and Tampines had chances to double their lead as well with Duric guilty of being unable to find substitute Ahmad Fahmie in the centre after having been played in by Jamil.
In the end though, the one-goal lead turned out to be just enough as the Stags held on for their first win in three games to rise to the fourth in the table and bring a halt to the resurgence that Robin Chitrakar's men had enjoyed recently.
Tampines : Sasa Dreven, Benoit Croissant, Anaz Hadee, Fahrudin Mustafic, Ahmad Latiff, Sazali Salleh, Jamil Ali, Ismadi Mukhtar, Imran Sahib, Gligor Gligorov, Aleksandar Duric
Subs: Ahmed Fahmie for Imran Sahib (67'), Davor Piskor for Jamil Ali (85')
Goals: Jamil Ali (67'), Jonathan Toto (og -69')
Yellow Cards: Gligor Gligorov (45'), Fahrudin Mustafic (61'), Anaz Hadee (64'), Sazali Salleh (83')
Courts Young Lions: Syazwan Buhari, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Faritz Hameed, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Sirina Camara, Fazli Ayob, Hafiz Sujad, Aqhari Abdullah, Sherif El-Masri, Shafiq Ghani, Jonathan Toto
Subs: Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee for Shafiq Ghani (58'), Faris Ramli for Sherif El-Masri (74'), Neil Vanu for Fazli Ayob (89')
Goals: Anaz Hadee (og - 45')
Yellow Cards: Hafiz Sujad (35'), Benjamin Kristoffersen Lee (79')