A late surge saw Services preserve its title hopes when it beat Karnataka 2-1 in the day's first Group A match of the 64th senior National football championship for the Santosh Trophy.
An action-filled second session saw Services finding the goal twice through M. Dileep and Shaji D'Silva while Karnataka could reply only once through J. Karthigeyan.
The alacrity of its midfield failed to influence its attack as Services suffered from a strange diffidence in the striking zone. Reached by a cross from the left, Mahesh Rai had all the time to find the net, but the unmarked Services midfielder could only respond with a feeble attempt that Karnataka custodian Nagendra easily gathered.
A minute earlier the Services goalkeeper Binu Purushothaman cleared a swerving free-kick from the Karnataka winger Xavier Vijay Kumar.
Karnataka's prospects were dampened by poor finishing yet again in the 18th minute when its seasoned forward R.C. Prakash sent the ball sailing over.
Poor marksmanship continued to dog Services' efforts even when it regained control and started probing the Karnataka box with greater frequency. Seikhohao Tuboi and P. Sumesh were the two offenders who fluffed two close chances for Services in the 21st and 34th minutes to see the first session ending barren.
After the break Services found the lead off a set-piece situation in the 54th minute. Moving up from his defensive position Dileep nodded home a swerving free-kick from Gordon Zoramchhana.
But after having tidied its attack, Services found its defence giving way when Karnataka snatched the equaliser in the 70th. Karthigeyan, who replaced an off-colour Prakash in the second session, kept his cool at the goalmouth and tapped home a cross that reached him after two of the opponent defenders had failed to clear.
Undaunted Services kept searching for the lead again and found it in the 76th minute when substitute D'Silva broke through the Karnataka defence and found the net off a rasping right-footer. Sochungmi Raleng spurned an opportunity to increase Services' lead sending the ball over an open goal.
Picking up its first win of the quarterfinals, Services tallied three points while Karnataka, which lost both its matches, saw its chances evaporating.
Brace by Lobo
Defending champion Goa brightened its semifinal chances downing Punjab by three second-session goals in the second quarterfinal Group A league match.
Goa netted full six points picking up its second successive win. Cavin Lobo scored a brace while his colleague upfront Branco Vincent Cardozo completed the tally with a goal in injury time.
Lobo turned the super-sub yet again for Goa as his arrival opened up the scoresheet. The striker came in at the half-hour mark against Punjab. Instead of playing as a striker, Lobo figured in his regular position in the central midfield and went out in support of the attack whenever it was necessary.
His midfield colleague Adil Khan won a challenge, and released Lobo, whose attempt found the Punjab net to take Goa ahead in the 55th minute. Goa held on to the lead till late into the match before a mistake by the Punjab defenders released Lobo for his second goal in the 88th minute. Cardozo, a former Mohun Bagan striker added another to the Goa tally in injury time.
The results: Quarterfinal: Group A: Services 2 (M. Dileep 54th, Shaji D'Silva 76th) bt Karnataka 1 (J. Karthigeyan 70th).
Goa 3 (Cavin Lobo 55th, 88th, Branco Vincent Cardozo 90+6) Punjab 0.