Kolkata: David Sunday`s hattrick went in vain as East Bengal rode on a late strike from Robin Singh to register a hard-fought 4-3 win over United Kerala in an I-League match at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Monday.
With this win, East Bengal now have 44 points in their kitty from 23 matches, while the Kerala outfit had to remain in the relegation zone with 17 from 23 outings.
In the must-win the match to deny Dempo the title, East Bengal started on a positive note by surging ahead to a 2-0 lead in the first-half till Sunday made his presence felt.
East Bengal`s Nigerian mideo Penn Orji gave the home team a 25th minute lead from a move generated by their Australian forward Tolgay Ozbey.
The Aussie made it 2-0 in the 32nd minute when he beat two Kerala defenders with his agility for a brilliant finish.
When it seemed that East Bengal would easily run away with the match, Sunday brought the encounter on an even keel.
He reduced the margin to 2-1 in the 37th minute, beating East Bengal goalkeeper Gurwinder Singh with a left-footer and four minutes later scored another to restore parity for the team from Kerala.
United went on to snatch the lead when Sunday completed his hattrick with a brilliant rightfooter.
But there was more drama in store when Ozbey scored his second in the 54th minute to make the scoreline 3-3 in favour of East Bengal before Delhi youngster Robin slammed home the winner that was set up brilliantly by Penn in 77th minute.