By Gabriel Tan at the Jalan Besar Stadium
Canadian forward Jordan Webb scored the only goal of the game in the 65th minute with a well-taken volley to hand his side all three points and snap their six-game losing streak in the process.
To make matters worse for the Jaguars, they were then reduced to ten men four minutes from the end when Japanese forward Takaya Kawanabe received a second yellow for a dive inside the Hougang area, and will now miss next week's tricky test against Albirex Niigata.
Having ended the first round with three consecutive 1-0 wins over Home United, Balestier Khalsa and Woodlands Wellington, Tanjong Pagar arguably entered Thursday's game as favourites.
However, in a scrappy opening period devoid of any clear-cut chances, it was Hougang who came closest to opening the scoring after just two minutes when Stanislav Vidakovic met a good delivery by Ante Barac down the right and flicked a header back off the woodwork.
Despite the promising start, it took the Cheetahs until the 25th minute to muster their next effort on goal when left-back Fazly Hasan let fly from 30 yards with a left-footed drive that stung the hands of Fajar Sarib.
Hougang top scorer Webb, who has already found the back of the net seven times this season prior to kickoff, was struggling to get into the game but showed a glimpse of his talent six minutes before the break, when he cut in from the left and looked to bend one in on his right foot, only to see his shot spin just past the far post via a slight deflection.
Nenad Bacina's men continued to push forward following the restart but struggled to carve open the Jaguars defence, and were largely restricted to long-range efforts from Azhar Sairudin and Barac. On both occasions, however, neither player was unable to find a way past Fajar.
Nonetheless, Hougang's pressure finally paid off five minutes after the hour mark when Vidakovic's near-post flick-on from a Barac corner was only half-cleared, straight into the path of Webb who met the ball with a delicate left-footed volley that arrowed straight into the bottom corner.
Having gone behind, Tanjong Pagar started to push more men forward but were largely frustrated by a Cheetahs backline that was well marshalled by Vidakovic. And their desperation to find an equaliser ultimately cost them in the 86th minute when Kawanabe, already on a yellow, received his marching orders for a dive inside the area, capping off a miserable day at the office for Terry Pathmanathan's men.
Tanjong Pagar United: Fajar Sarib, Sudhershen Hariram, Hanafi Salleh, Hafiz Osman, Zahid Ahmad, Hafiz Nor, Delwinder Singh, Azhar Ahmad (Seah Si Hao 63'), Asraf Rashid, Syed Karim (Abdul Rahim 46'), Takaya Kawanabe.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Lau Meng Meng, Syaqir Sulaiman, Stanislav Vidakovic, Fazly Hasan, Faizal Amir, Azhar Sairudin (Sobrie Mazelan 53'), Ante Barac, Jordan Webb, Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 90'), Mamadou Diallo.