A 94th-minute penalty gave the RAF a 2-1 win in the opening match of the U23 Inter Services Championships.
The Air Force beat the Army in Aldershot after falling behind to Scott Hynd’s early goal.
Liam Wood’s thumping volley made it 1-1 and captain Kyle Willis converted the spot-kick in injury time to seal the victory.
The Army missed their first chance to take the lead.
Hynd raced through on goal but RAF goalkeeper James Rutherford stood tall to make a good save.
The Army forward made the most of his second opportunity.
He stayed composed to beat the RAF shot-stopper and give the hosts a 1-0 lead after just 13 minutes.
George Barber headed over for the RAF from a corner, but they would be level in the 23rd minute.
A poor clearance fell perfectly for Wood to hit on the half-volley and his strike flew past the helpless Army goalkeeper Jordan Brooks from the edge of the box.
Brooks was called into the action again minutes later but managed to keep out Joe Spalding’s goal-bound effort.
Wood should have scored for the RAF at the start of the second half.
A low cross from the right fell perfectly in the striker’s path, but an air-shot saved the Army from falling behind.
The game looked destined to finish as a draw but some late drama gave the RAF a winning goal.
Nial Gannon was brought down by a clumsy Will Skillington tackled and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty to the away side.
With the four minutes of added time already played, the penalty was close to the final kick of the game but Willis kept his composure to score.
The 2-1 win puts the RAF in pole position to win this year’s title, while the Army will look to bounce back when they play the Navy in Portsmouth next week.
If the Navy can beat the Army, the final game between the Air Force and the Senior Service will be a winner-takes-all match in Oxford.