China face a pivotal away game against Indonesia this week as they bid to extend their proud record of qualifying for the last 10 editions of the Asian Cup.
Tuesday's game in Jakarta is shaping as a must-win for the team and caretaker coach Fu Bo, who took over after China axed former Real Madrid and Spain boss Jose Antonio Camacho.
China have enjoyed a mini-revival under Fu, after a poor run with the expensively hired Camacho, and they are three points off the lead in Group C after the first two games.
But they will need to ensure they take maximum points off bottom-placed Indonesia as they fight it out with Saudi Arabia and Iraq for the two automatic qualifying spots.
China, who have reached every Asian Cup since their first appearance in 1976, lost their opener away to the Saudis but then grabbed a stoppage-time winner at home against Iraq.
The qualifiers are effectively an audition for Fu as he bids to go full-time and lead China to the 2015 tournament in Australia.
"If we believe in ourselves and focus on our strengths such as our passing and keeping the ball, as well as our solid defence, I believe that facing the opponents we have, we can perform well," defender Sun Xiang told CCTV.
Former Asian champions Iraq, absorbing their latest change of manager after Hakeem Shaker replaced Vladimir Petrovic -- less than a year after Zico's departure -- take on the table-topping Saudis in Amman.
Elsewhere, in Group A Jordan have a rematch with Oman, whom they beat in World Cup qualifying to reach the play-offs. A revenge win for Oman would see them all but qualified for Australia.
Syria will hope to shrug off the troubles of their war-wracked homeland and lift their embattled fans when they take on Singapore in Group A.
"We will... try to do and play well for them because they wait (for) us and ask about us, and worry about us, and it is most important thing to make a result, a good result for them," said coach Anas Makhlouf.
Three-time champions Iran lead Group B on goal difference and can move a step closer to the tournament in early 2015 with a victory in Tehran against Thailand, who have yet to gain any points.
Uzbekistan will be looking to revive their qualification hopes after a poor start in Group E when they host Vietnam in Tashkent.
The 2011 semi-finalists are currently in third place with just a single point after a goalless draw with Hong Kong and 2-1 loss to the United Arab Emirates.
With four points, Hong Kong host group leaders UAE knowing that a win would boost their hopes of reaching the finals for the first time since 1968.