A trio of former winners went out on the closing AFC Champions League group-stage matchday, with Al Ain, Pohang Steelers and Urawa Red Diamonds all seeing their campaign ended in brutal fashion. 2006 champions Jeonbuk Motors, meanwhile, only scraped through after earning a hard-fought point at Guangzhou Evergrande.
A series of debutants, conversely, claimed headlines through some spirited performances. Having sealed early progression, El Jaish proceeded to route Tractor Sazi 4-2, while both Jiangsu Sainty and Guizhou Renhe narrowly fell short of booking qualification. Join FIFA.com as we look at the action in detail.
Central Coast Mariners 0-3 Kashiwa Reysol
Despite sealing their progression as Group H winners a week earlier, Kashiwa Reysol showed the Australians no mercy by firing home three unanswered second-half goals. After a fiercely-contested first half, the visitors went ahead when Masato Kudo opened the scoring ten minutes after the restart.
The Mariners hit back hard as they sought to claw back into the contention. But their hopes of a comeback were ended when Cleo doubled Kashiwa's lead from close-range with 11 minutes remaining, before Leandro Domingues iced the cake with a sublimely-taken free-kick.
The unexpected loss provided Guizhou with a golden chance to progress. However, the Chinese side could only manage a 2-2 draw against Suwon Bluewings, a result which confirmed the Mariners' qualification.
FC Seoul 2-2 Buriram United
Group E’s Buriram United became the first side from Thailand to progress into the knockout stage since BEC Tero Sasana in 2003. Under Attaphol Buspakom, who took BEC to the final of the inaugural edition, the Thai FA Cup holders twice battled from behind to draw 2-2 with the K League champions.
In a match largely dominated by the hosts, Buriram missed a penalty before the break and were a goal down shortly after the interval. Despite the odds facing them, the visitors soon drew level through Ekkachai Sumrei. Kim Hyunsung would restore the home side's lead with a glancing header, but the Thais salvaged the required point as Theerathon Bunmathan equalised with a free-kick.
The hard-fought draw, coupled with Jiangsu Sainty's 2-1 win at Vegalta Sendai, saw Buriram pip the Chinese FA Cup winners on goal difference for second spot behind FC Seoul.
The other attractions
Group A's qualified duo both prevailed against the two eliminated sides, with Al Shabab rounding off their campaign with a 2-1 home win over Al Jazira and El Jaish outmuscling hosts Tractor Sazi 4-2. As a result, Al Shabab secured top place in the section.
There were, though, surprises in Group B, where seasoned campaigners Pakhtakor and Saudi giants Al Ettifaq both crashed out with defeats. In the process, the former scored twice, including an own goal, as they fell to Al Shabab Al Arabi at home. Al Ettifaq, meanwhile, were outclassed by hosts Lekhwiya 2-0.
With little but pride to play for, Group C's Sepahan departed with their heads held high by defeating Al Gharafa 3-1 at home. In the other game, Al Ahli came from a goal down to draw 2-2 with the visiting Al Nasr.
Needing just a point to make it through, Al Hilal of Group D didn't let the chance slip away, seeing off hosts Al Rayyan 2-0 to clinch the section's second qualifying spot behind Esteghlal. The Tehran giants, meanwhile, won the group by overcoming hosts Al Ain 1-0.
In Group F, both hosts Guangzhou Evergrande and Jeonbuk Motors can be content with their goalless draw, with the result sealing the Chinese champions’ place as section winners as well as the visitor’s progression. But the outcome brought Urawa Red Diamonds' hopes to a brutal end, although the 2007 winners fought out a solitary-goal victory at Muang Thong United.
Group G's two matches both ended in stalemates, but it was Bunyodkor that sealed progression as section winners with a 1-1 draw at Pohang Steelers. Beijing Guoan advanced as runners-up after negotiating a tough goalless tie with hosts Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Since joining Bunyodkor at the start of this season, Ukrainian Oleksandr Pyschur has quickly established his place at the Tashkent giants. The towering forward has been on target three times in the Asian campaign, including crucially breaking the deadlock against Pohang.
1 - After a tough group campaign, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Iran, Uzbekistan and Australia will each have one representative in the Round of 16.
What they said
"It's a wonderful history-making moment for the club. It's a fantastic achievement for the smallest club in Australia to get to the last 16 in Asia," Central Coast Mariners coach Graham Arnold
2013 AFC Champions League matchday 6 results
30 April & 1 May
Group A: Tractor Sazi 2-4 El Jaish, Al Shabab 2-1 Al Jazira
Group B: Pakhtakor 1-2 Al Shabab Al Arabi, Lekhwiya 2-0 Al Ettifaq
Group C: Sepahan 3-1 Al Gharafa, Al Ahli 2-2 Al Nasr
Group D: Al Rayyan 0-2 Al Hilal, Al Ain 0-1 Esteghlal
Group E: FC Seoul 2-2 Buriram United, Vegalta Sendai 1-2 Jiangsu Sainty
Group F: Guangzhou Evergrande 0-0 Jeonbuk Motors, Muang Thong United 0-1 Urawa Red Diamonds
Group G: Sanfrecce Hiroshima 0-0 Beijing Guoan, Pohang Steelers 1-1 Bunyodkor
Group H: Central Coast Mariners 0-3 Kashiwa Reysol, Guizhou Renhe 2-2 Suwon Bluewings