Johor Darul Ta'zim's history-making ways in the AFC Champions League a classic case of "if at first you don't succeed..."

Just three years after making their AFC Champions League debut, Johor Darul Ta'zim have secured a maiden appearance in the knockout round of Asia's premier club competition. Johor Darul Ta'zim FC

Under their ambitious owner Tunku Ismail Idris, Johor Darul Ta'zim have never been around just to make up the numbers.

On Saturday, they proved just that as they beat Ulsan Hyundai 2-1 in thrilling fashion -- benefitting from a 94th-minute own-goal from Park Yong-woo with the last kick of the game -- to make history by reaching the AFC Champions League knockout round for the first time ever.

It is the latest chapter of a glorious era under Tunku Ismail.

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Since he took over the reins, the Southern Tigers have won eight consecutive Malaysia Super League titles. Back in 2015, they became only the second team outside West Asia -- and first from the ASEAN Zone -- to win the AFC Cup, Asian football's second-tier club competition.

And from the time JDT made it to the continent's biggest stage with their ACL debut in 2019, the next target has always been to make the knockout round.

Of course, it was never going to be easy nor happen immediately.

That maiden campaign saw them finish last in their group but claim a historic first win by beating then-defending champions Kashima Antlers. A year later, they recorded another impressive victory over Suwon Samsung Bluewings early on -- only to have to withdraw from the competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They then looked to have taken a backwards step last year. Handed what looked to be a realistic chance to progress, the Southern Tigers picked up just four points to finish 12 behind group winners Nagoya Grampus and a distant seven off second-placed Pohang Steelers, who were able to advance as one of the best runners-up.

But if at first you do not succeed, try and try again.

This season, it looked a far more difficult task for JDT having been drawn alongside powerhouses Kawasaki Frontale and Ulsan, as well as an understrength Guangzhou, in Group I.

Perhaps at best, they could hope to scrape through as one of the best-performing second-placed teams.

Yet, as they headed into Saturday's final group match top of the table, their destiny was firmly in their own hands: victory over Ulsan -- who they had already beaten once on match day two -- and they would be marching on.

Leandro Velazquez got them off to a flyer with a stunning 30-yard freekick, only for Jun Amano to equalise less than a minute after.

JDT then had a legitimate second goal by Fernando Forestieri incorrectly ruled out for offside, and were further aggrieved early on in the second half when appeals for a penalty after Arif Aiman went down inside the area were waved away.

At this stage, it was Frontale -- headed for victory over Guangzhou -- who were on course to finish top of Group I by virtue of superior goal difference over Ulsan and JDT in a three-way tie at the top.

JDT would slip down to third with no hope of advancing even as runners-up, with Ulsan overtaking them in the event of that three-way head-to-head.

The Southern Tigers would pile on the pressure in the closing stages yet it increasingly looked as though it just would not be their day.

Ramadhan Saifullah's curling effort was destined for the bottom corner until Ulsan goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo pulled off a superb stop. Moments later, Safawi Rasid's speculative attempt came back off the post.

If at first you do not succeed, try and try again.

With only three minutes of injury-time added but the match now into a fourth, Arif refused to give up hope after seeing an initial shot blocked.

He stayed alert and eventually regained possession, before swinging in a low cross that was destined to reach the waiting Forestieri, until Park's desperate attempt to intercept diverted the ball into his own goal to hand JDT the most dramatic -- and historic -- of victories.

JDT can now look forward to the knockout round, with the East Zone action set to be completed up till the semifinal stage from Aug. 18 to 25 before next February's final.

They will definitely strive to go as far as possible but it will obviously not be easy coming up against even more quality opposition. The Round of 16 could even be as far as they go in 2022.

Yet, it would not be the end of the world. Because knowing JDT, if at first they do not succeed, they will try and try again.