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A dramatic stoppage-time winner earned China a 1-0 win over 10-man Iraq Friday, igniting their Asian Cup qualifying campaign and throwing a lifeline to embattled boss Jose Antonio Camacho.
In appalling, rain-soaked conditions in the south-central city of Changsha, substitute forward Yu Dabao struck from close range in the third minute of added time to earn the hosts their first points in Group C.
The result boosts Chinese hopes of reaching their 11th consecutive Asian Cup in Australia in 2015, and also ends a run of six games without a win for Camacho's team.
The former Real Madrid and Spain boss came into the match with domestic media claiming only victory at Helong Stadium would be enough to save his job, following a miserable run of results.
But the manner of the victory, against a side which played with 10 men throughout the second half, was unconvincing. It follows a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in their Group C opener last month.
That result provoked a vicious backlash from the Chinese media, who had already questioned the credentials of Camacho after his side had also crashed out of World Cup qualifying and lost a series of friendlies.
The 57-year-old Spaniard, who was reported to have signed an $8 million-a-year contract in 2011, looked agitated as he waved orders from the pitchside and watched spurn a series of chances in the pouring rain.
The home side were unlucky not to go ahead in the 17th minute when Sun Ke's looping cross was met with a powerful header by Yang Xu, who could only watch as Iraq 'keeper Noor Sabri reacted quickly to deflect wide.
Iraq defender Ali Adnan was given his marching orders just before half-time when he received a second yellow card for moving forward from the wall as Sun Xiang took a free-kick.
But China failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority until deep into stoppage time, when they won a corner which was met by a weak header from Zhang Linpeng, before Yu pounced for the vital winner.
Defeat was a cruel blow for Iraq manager Vladimir Petrovic in his first game in charge. The Serb formerly coached China but was sacked after he failed to steer them to the 2010 World Cup.