By Abhishek Mehrotra
The Serbian scored in the 15th, 39th and 84th minute to seal three points for Tampines against an abject home side that was outplayed in every department for most of the match.
All the pre-match chatter had been about the amount of damage Steven Tan's well-drilled outfit could inflict on the beleaguered Rams, and the visitors almost started the process inside the first minute.
Jamil Ali played in Aleksandar Duric on the left, and the striker shot just wide of the left post after doing well to cut in past Fabian Lewis.
Having survived the early scare, the Rams then nearly gifted a goal to their opponents within 60 seconds when a horrific backpass from Farizal Basri put Duric straight through but this time the striker shot straight at Ahmadulhaq Mat Che under pressure from Daniel Hammond.
Tampines were having the run of the park against the disjointed Rams, and Imran Sahib was next to try his luck in the 11th minute, but he too shot straight at Ahmadulhaq after Ahmad Latiff had found him with a superb crossfield ball.
Latiff himself was fed by Hadzibulic a minute later and Ahmadulhaq had to be alert to scramble the midfielder's shot clear.
The Woodlands keeper was getting absolutely no help from his defence, and Benoit Croissant should have done better in the 15th minute than direct his free-header off a Gligor Gligorov corner straight into the hands of Ahmadulhaq.
But if the Rams' defence had been insipid thus far, it turned positively diabolical 30 seconds later.
Imran punted in a hopeful cross from the right and with plenty of time to clear, Lewis headed it straight out to Hadzibulic 30 yards from goal. With no Woodlands defender putting pressure on him, the new Rovers signing lined up his shot and curled it in off the crossbar to give his side a deserved lead.
Anaz Hadee went agonisingly close five minutes later when a clearance off another Gligorov delivery fell straight to him at the edge of the area before Woodlands finally got their first shot away on the half hour mark, but Moon Soon-ho's strike was well blocked by Anaz.
The Tampines defender almost undid the good work two minutes later when Neil Vanu pounced on his loose pass and stormed up the pitch before finding Moon, but the striker's weak shot failed to test Sasa Dreven.
It was unfortunate for Salim Moin's men that the few chances they had before the interval fell to the off-colour South Korean, and they were duly punished after Moon could not get a shot away off Hussein Akil's superb centre from the left.
Guntur Djafril gave the ball away cheaply to Gligorov high up the pitch in the 39th minute, the playmaker found Hadzibulic with a simple through ball and the bulky Serb coolly slotted it into Ahmadulhaq's far corner.
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The visitors could, and should have gone three up inside two minutes when Hadzibulic's ball in from the right evaded the entire Woodlands defence before falling straight at Duric's feet three yards from goal. In trying to retrieve the situation, Rams captain Hammond had slipped - leaving the goal yawning for the striker, but Duric chose to dribble about needlessly before pulling the trigger, allowing Hammond to recover and put in a clearing tackle whilst still on the ground.
It was surely the miss of the season, but one that the Stags were not made to pay for.
The game took on a more even complexion after the break, with Woodlands showing far more desire even as Tampines continued to threaten.
Hammond hammered a free-kick straight at Sasa upon ten minutes of the restart before Duric missed another great chance at the other end, skewing his shot horribly from the left, after Jamil Ali's pass had carved open the home defence.
Moin was getting increasingly frustrated on the sideline, and was summarily dismissed to the stands in the 66th minute after haranguing the fourth official.
Duric soon left the pitch too, replaced by the returning Noh Alam Shah, who jogged in to raucous applause, in the 68th minute and the Singapore striker could have made an instant impact, but failed to connect properly after Imran's cut-back had teed him up perfectly on the edge of the area.
Moon had another half-chance in to drag his side back in the game when he got in behind the defence to collect a long ball on the right from the deep, but with no support in the centre, the forward had no choice but to go for goal from an acute angle and actually did well to draw a fingertip save from Sasa.
Rams' Substitute Aloysius Yap blazed over off a corner before Hadzibulic capped off a perfect day for himself and his side by grabbing his third six minutes from time, although the goal did have a touch of good fortune about it.
Jamil went on a mazy run down the right before pulling the trigger; the ball pinged off Lewis, hit a Tampines player in the crowded Woodlands' area before falling to the unmarked 29-year-old three yards from goal, and he made no mistake in tapping it in to grab his first hat-trick for Tampines and take them to the top of the S.League table.
The defeat left Woodlands rooted to the bottom of the table below Geylang United on goals scored, and it was no surprise given that the only semblance of quality was provided by Akil, Hammond, Soon-ho and the vociferously cheerful Rams' supporters in the stands.