Captain Teun de Nooijer struck in dying minutes to lead the Netherlands to a thrilling 2-2 draw against defending Champions Germany [ Images ] in a Pool A hockey World Cup match and virtually booked a semi-final berth for his side on Sunday.
In the best match of the tournament so far the two strong sides entertained the sparse crowd at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium with their fast-paced and quick passing game.
The Dutch took the lead in the 23rd minute through Wouter Jolie before the Germans made a remarkable comeback to put their nose ahead by scoring in the 44th and 63rd minutes through Oliver Korn and Jean Marco Montag respectively.
Just as it looked like the all-win record of the Dutch in this World Cup will be broken, Nooijer, playing in his fifth World Cup, found the German net four minutes from the final hooter.
In the much anticipated clash of the titans, three-time champions the Netherlands got four penalty corners from which they scored once while Germany, gunning for a hat-trick of titles, had two.
With this draw the Dutch topped Pool A with 10 points -- from three wins and a draw -- to virtually take a spot in the semi-finals. They play South Korea in their last pool match on March 9.
Germany, who won the title in 2002 and 2006, are on eight points from two wins and two draws, now need to beat New Zealand [ Images ] to qualify for the last four stage.
If the Dutch side beat Korea, then even a draw against New Zealand will ensure Germany to the semi-finals.
There was little to differentiate between the two sides, which played similar style of hockey -- quick passes, hard running up and down and looking for penalty corners.
No clear chances came from both sides though the Netherlands got three penalty corners in the first half while Germany got two.
Star drag-flicker and tournament joint top scorer on six goals Taeka Taekema took the first two the Netherlands' penalty corners but failed to give his side the lead.
They opened their account from the third penalty corner, taken by Wouter Jolie in the 23rd minute. Wouter's direct hit found the back of the German net after hitting the hands of goalkeeper Tim Jessulat.
The Germans looked more dangerous in the second half and veteran Dutch goalkeeper Guus Vogel was tested on quite a few occasions
In the 43rd minute, Matthias Witthaus' fine effort from near the Netherlands right post just went wide after hitting the sticks of the Dutch goalkeeper Guus Vogels.
Next minute, Germany equalised with a gem of a goal with Oliver Korn just making a slight change in direction of a cross from the right by Christoph Menke by his stick inside a congested Dutch striking circle. The Dutch could get just a few openings in the second half and form one such instance Ronald Brouwer's reverse stick shot from a difficult angle went wide.
Germany took the lead in the 63rd minute with Jean marco Montag making a diving deflection off a cross from the right by Tobias Hauke and it looked like they would run away with full three points.
But Nooijer had other ideas and the veteran of five World Cups, who have scored a goal each in his appearance in the four earlier showpiece events, found the target in the 66th minute when his side needed it the most.