Doha, Qatar: Saudi Arabia found their rhythm and thrashed reigning champions Oman 3-1 to emphatically book their berth in the semifinals of the Gulf Cup on Monday.
While the Saudi's finished as Group B champions with six points, Oman, who had led the group coming into the match, crashed out after Bahrain registered a thrilling victory against Kuwait in the other match to squeeze into the last four by virtue of their better goal difference.
Needing a victory to ensure the quarterfinal berth, Saudi Arabia were on the attack right from the start.
They tested Oman in the first minute of the match and goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi had to be alert to tip over captain Salman Mohammed Al Faraj's snap-shot from just inside the box after a fluent move through the right.
With Saudi calling all the shots at Al Duhail Stadium, Oman had to wait till the 20th minute for their first fluent move and although Mohsin Al Khaldi drew a fine save from keeper Fawaz Al Qarni with a header into the top corner, the linesman had already raised his flag for offside.
Saudi Arabia took the lead in the 26th minute and there was a slight controversy about the goal.
Oman were looking to carry the ball forward from defence when it hit Saudi Arabia's Sultan Al Ghannam's hand, breaking the move. Though Oman casually appealed for a hand ball, the referee waved it off but when Feras Albrikan collected Salem Al Dawsari's pass and beat Al Rusheidi with a fierce left-footer that crashed in off the cross-bar, they protested vehemently.
The decision was referred but goal was allowed to stay.
Saudi then doubled their lead with a beautiful goal in the 42nd minute.
A fine flick from Al Faraj released Yasir Al Shahrani on the left flank and the captain ran into the empty space to receive the left back's return ball before rolling it back into the path of Hatan Bahbri who was making his run at the far post.
Bahbri met the ball with a powerful right-footer and although Oman defender Mohammed Al Musallami did well to get his feet to it, the ball carried too much venom.
Oman were guilty of being too passive, but they came alive in the first half added time during which Mohsin Al Khaldi drew a double save from Saudi keeper Fawas Al Qarni.
Al Khaldi's first shot, a freekick from the left side of the box, brought nervous moments in Saudi defence and although Al Qarni made the save, he was again called into action seconds later as the Oman playmaker again pounced on the loose ball and unleashed a low left-footer from 30 yards out.
Oman tried to stay positive at the start of the second half and after Ali Al Busaidi flashed the ball across the goal with Abdulaziz Al Maqbali and Muhsen Al Ghassani unable to get a touch to it, they pulled one back in the 55th minute.
Al Mandhar Al Alawi was tightly marked when he received the ball on the left, but the burly forward made space for himself and with minimum backlift unleashed a right-footer that beat Al Qarni to put Oman back in the game and more importantly, keep them ahead of Bahrain, who was leading Kuwait in the other match, on goal difference.
Saudi made it 3-1 two minutes later to make it even tenser for Oman.
They were still ahead on goal difference but there was bigger drama unfolding a few miles away at Khalifa International Stadium where Bahrain scored four to Kuwait's two to put Erwin Koeman's out of the tournament.
Bahrain take on Iraq in the first semifinal on Thursday before Saudi Arabia play Qatar.