Timor-Leste have secured qualification for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup following a 3-2 aggregate win over Brunei Darussalam despite losing the second leg 1-0 in Bandar Seri Begawan.

Holding a 3-1 advantage from last week’s first-leg in neutral Malaysia, Norio Tsukitate’s side survived a nervy final quarter hour after winger Najib Tarif had handed the hosts a 75th minute lead in a tightly fought contest in the Sultanate.

In the process history was created as the Timorese reached the finals for the first time since 2004 but given there was no qualification for that edition the forthcoming finals will mark the first time that the nation has emerged from the playoffs.

They had to do it the hard way though against a Brunei side that was boosted by the return of their captain, Faiq Bolkiah, after he missed the first leg and the Leicester City starlet was a real threat every time he touched the ball.

In a first half that the hosts had the better of Azwan Ali Rahman sent in a dangerous free-kick in the 17th minute that was well dealt with by the Timorese keeper, Aderito, before a scramble from a corner ten minutes later saw defender Yura Indera Putera also come close to opening the scoring.

Brunei then had further chances shortly after the half hour as firstly Faiq saw his effort from inside the box again well saved by Aderito before last week’s lone scorer, Azwan, sent his effort from outside of the box well wide of the target.

The best half of the opening term though fell the way of the visitors after Joao Pedro was brought down on the edge of the penalty box only for Rufino Gama to send the resulting free-kick over the bar as the teams went to halftime with the score unbroken.

Having already lost central midfielder Oswaldo Belo to a first half injury, Timor made another change at the break as Paulo Freitas came on for right-back Candido and he came close to breaking the deadlock barely five minutes after his arrival as he fired wide from close range after a fierce shot from Nataniel Reis was parried towards him by keeper Haimie Nyaring.

Brunei had done a good job in closing down Timor’s dangerous two-man forward line of Rufino Gama and Henrique but the former came close to scoring in the 53rd minute with Haimie smartly off his line to thwart the danger before the equally potent Joao Pedro fired across the face of goal on the hour.

In front of a boisterous crowd at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium the hosts saw a good chance go begging as the nation’s record goalscorer, Shahrazen Said, saw his 68th minute free-kick brush the roof of the net.

The talismanic Faiq then had the best chance of the match as only a superb close-range save from Aderito in the 74th minute prevented him from scoring – but it was from the resulting corner that the hosts did take the lead.

With the ball swung in from the right it was firstly headed across goal by Shahrazen before Indera Putera sent it back the other way where Najib Tarif was lurking to sweep home from close range and hand Brunei a 1-0 lead with a quarter of an hour remaining.

In a tense closing period both teams had good chances with Azwan lashing wide for Brunei in the 83rd minute as Timor substitute Gelvanio did likewise from distance two minutes later before the final whistle sparked wild celebrations from a Timorese side that has been away from home for almost half a month preparing for this historic moment.

Timor now join Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore in Group B with their opening match a daunting clash at home to the defending champions in early November.