By Abhishek Mehrotra
An early goal by Serge Souchon was enough to give Terry Pathmanathan's men victory despite playing most of the second-half with ten men after Jonathan Xu had been sent off for two bookable offences either side of the break.
In a first half largely shorn of quality, it was Tanjong Pagar who dominated proceedings with Takaya Kawanabe and Souchon combining well to give Duncan Elias a hard time at the back.
Kawanabe had scored in both of the previous wins for Pathmanathan's men and the midfielder looked in the mood for more, getting off a first time volley from the edge off the area that fizzed by Ahmadulhaq Che Omar's right post before taking advantage of a fluffed pass from Rams' captain Daniel Hammond to find Souchon. The winger's first time cross was pure quality and the home side were relieved to see Fabien Lewis head clear with Aliff Shafaein lurking just behind.
Hussein Akil's shot from distance skimmed just over Fajar Sarib's crossbar in a rare Woodlands' foray forward before normal service resumed with Kawanabe and Souchon leading the charge for the Jaguars. Kawanabe tried his luck from 25 yards out after being teed up by Jang In-jun before drawing a foul from Lewis halfway inside the Woodlands area that would lead to the opening goal.
Xu's quickly taken free-kick in the 16th minute found Souchon free on the right, and a lightning burst of pace from the 24-year-old saw him whistle past Elias before he let fly with a magnificent left-footed strike that screamed past Ahmadulhaq's outstretched hand before bulging the back of the net.
Azhar Ahmad then had a golden chance to double his side's lead a little over ten minutes later when Ahmadulhaq flapped at a Shafaein cross and slipped in the process, but Pathmanathan was left amazed as Azhar's horribly mistimed shot trickled across the edge of the area before being cleared.
Akil carved out one last chance for the home side five minutes before the curtain fell on a dire first-half, but after doing well to cut in and get the ball on his favoured left foot, the midfielder saw his shot superbly blocked by Zahid Ahmad.
But despite the presence of some vociferous support, the Rams failed to continue that momentum after the break, failing to keep possession and allowing Kawanabe to cause all sorts of mischief. The Jaguars' talisman nearly scored with a thunderous strike four minutes after the restart before exchanging power for finesse eight minutes later - going for an outrageous shot on goal with the outside of his right foot and forcing Ahmadulhaq into a good save low to his left.
At the other end, Woodlands wasted their best chance of the match when Shamsurin Rahman charged into the area before cutting back for Moon Soon-ho. It looked the simplest of tap-ins for the striker, but somehow he managed to sky his shot over.
So far the Rams' attacks had been sporadic at best, but the complexion of the match was about to change thanks to a moment of madness from Jonathan Xu. The defender had already been cautioned for petulantly throwing the ball away in the first-half and when his reckless lunge brought down Akil in the 58th minute, referee Mohd Taqi had no choice but to show his a second yellow.
Watch: Highlights - Woodlands 0-1 Tanjong Pagar... More Videos
Having failed to show any much penetration against eleven men, Woodlands started coming to life with only ten to contend with. The trio of Akil, Goh Swee Swee and Shamsurin were getting a lot more space in the final third but Akil and Goh in particular seemed happier to pull the trigger when a slightly more patient build-up might have yielded richer dividends. And when they did manage to link up with each other - the finish was lacking.
Akil tested Fajar from distance right on the hour mark before threading one through a minute later for Moon; but the South Korean could only find the side-netting from a narrow angle. Fajar was now being peppered with shots from distance, as Akil and Goh got off three within five minutes that, on any other day, might well have flown in.
With the match entering the last ten minutes, the home side were throwing men forward, with captain Hammond virtually camped in the Tanjong Pagar area and that obviously left huge holes in the defence. Kawanabe had two great chances to guarantee all three points for the Jaguars but seemed to run out of legs after charging half the length of the pitch and slipped while taking his shot before being deemed offisde after having been played in by Souchon.
These misses might have cost Tanjong Pagar dearly, as Shamsurin sliced open their defence with a slide rule ball that found Goh whose shot was only partially saved by Fajar but Hafiz Osman was on hand to hoof it clear. The game was past the 90 minute mark but there was still enough left for one last dramatic piece of action.
Goh's ball found Hammond stationed right at the edge of the Tanjong Pagar area, and after failing to see any free teammate inside the area, the defender opted to go for goal himself. His sweetly struck volley passed between the legs of Zahid Ahmad, beat Fajar but heartbreakingly, could not beat the base of the keeper's right post.
Having pelted the visitors' goal for the past half hour without result, this misfortune took the wind out of Woodlands' sails and denied them the point that, on balance, they had done enough to just about deserve and ensured they'd be heading into the S.League break rooted to the bottom of the table.
For Pathmanathan's men, this was their third straight 1-0 win and one that saw them go eighth - something that is sure to fill them with confidence when they play Houngang United in the RHB Singapore Cup next week.
Woodlands: Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, Duncan Elias, Fabien Lewis, Daniel Hammond, Armanizam Dolah, Guntur Djafril, Goh Swee Swee, K Sathiraj, Shamsurin Rahman, Moon Soon-ho, Hussein Akil
Subs: Aloysius Yap for Guntur Djafril (52'), Oswind Suriya for K Sathiraj (70'), Han Yi Guang for Armanizam Dolah (84')
Yellow Cards: Fabien Lewis (49'), Daniel Hammond (81')
Tanjong Pagar: Fajar Sarib, Hafiz Osman, Delwinder Singh, Jonathan Xu, Azhar Ahmad, Zahid Ahmad, Hanafi Salleh, Aliff Shafaein, Serge Souchon, Takaya Kawanabe, Jang In-jun
Subs: S Vikneshwaran for Azhar Ahmad (56')
Yellow Cards: Jonathan Xu (28', 58'), Zahid Ahmad (88')
Goals: Serge Souchon (16')