Staring at a painful defeat and with it another potential exit from the group stages, Russia invoked the spirits of the comeback kings, which seems to be so prevalent at this FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil, to pull off a 1-1 draw with South Korea.
Defeat looked like swimming Russia's way in their opening Group H match in Cuiaba, after Lee Keun-Ho had given the Koreans the lead midway through the second half, courtesy a howler from goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. However, Aleksandr Kerzhakov came on from the bench to salvage a point for Russia.
"It was a good game, they ran a lot in the first half and then felt tired," Russia coach Fabio Capello said. "You saw the goal they scored, it was not easy to react.
"But the players were really good and most important for me was the reaction. We also twice had a chance to score a second goal. I know Kerzhakov did well, he's a fantastic player. He always offers us a way to score goals."
South Korea were the better side in the first half, even if chances were few and far between in a cagey match.
Russia looked to up their game in the second 45, but were pushed back by Lee's strike on 68 minutes. The Korean created some space for a shot outside the box off a quick counter, before firing in a speculative right-footed effort from 22 yards out.
The ball looked like going right into Akinfeev's hands, with the shot hardly carrying any venom, but the Russia goalkeeper, usually so reliable, spilled it miserably to pop it over the line.
"A keeper always has the chance to make a mistake," Capello told Sport Ekspress in defence of Akinfeev. "We can accept a mistake from a great goalkeeper, which is what Akinfeev is."
However, much to Akinfeev's relief, South Korea's lead lasted only six minutes as Kerzhakov, brought in a couple of minutes after the first goal was conceded, drew level.
Alan Dzagoev, another substitute, jinked his way inside the box and fired in a shot which was initially saved. A goalmouth scramble ensued, with Kerzhakov using his experience to pounce on the ball and fire in Russia's equaliser.
"We got a draw, that's not a bad result," Kerzhakov said. "There was some nervousness -- it was a big day, so everyone knew it could cause mistakes. Plus we were getting used to the weather, it was very hot."