A hat-trick by Armenian international forward Yura Movsisyan on his Spartak Moscow league debut helped his new side clinch a 3-1 win over Terek Grozny to go joint fourth in the table with Kuban Krasnodar.
Spartak got off to a flying start as Movsisyan put Spartak 1-0 up when the match was just one minute old - scoring from close range after a great assist by Artem Dzyuba. In the 29th minute Movsisyan made it 2-0 firing into the top left corner with a 30-yard screamer after being set up by Brazilian Ari.
Movsisyan completed a hat-trick in the 76th minute, scoring his 12th goal of the season - putting him top of the league's scoring charts - with a sharp-angled shot after beating the Terek defence on a breakaway. Brazilian midfielder Mauricio netted the guests' consolation goal with 12 minutes to go.
"It was my first career hat-trick. I could never have imagined that I'd be able to do it in my debut match for Spartak," Movsisyan said. "But three points for my club is the most important thing about today's result."
Defending champions Zenit St Petersburg and big-spending side Anzhi Makhachkala failed to close the gap on leaders CSKA Moscow as they both suffered away defeats on Sunday. CSKA top the table with 46 points from 20 matches, five points ahead of Anzhi, while Zenit sit third on 38 points.
Saransk came into the weekend bottom of the table but stunned Anzhi 2-0 to pull themselves up a place in the league. Saransk began the game in full confidence and took an early lead in the third minute thanks to Serbian defender Milan Perendija, who fired home a rebound after a well delivered corner.
Anzhi were at full strength but their players looked a pale shadow of their usual form and failed to create any serious threat to the hosts during the opening 45 minutes. In the second half, Anzhi continued to struggle and were made to pay with 17 minutes left when substitute Rustem Mukhametshin found the target to put the underdogs 2-0 up.
"Everything went wrong way for us today," Anzhi manager Guus Hiddink said. "We made too many mistakes in defence allowing our rivals to score twice. My team love to play football but sometimes my players lack fighting spirit when they need to battle tough for the win. Today Saransk were in a brave mood. They really battled for the win and won deservedly."
Champions slip to defeat
Meanwhile, the reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg, who were beaten in UEFA Europa League action this week, crashed 1-0 at the hands of Rubin Kazan at Grozny.
Rubin grabbed the lead on the counter-attack just before the half-hour mark, when their Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon received a Karadeniz Gokdeniz pass from the central circle and lobbed the ball into the net over Zenit 'keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.
Zenit replied with a series of attacks but failed to level before the break as their forwards Hulk and Alexander Kerzhakov lacked accuracy in front of the Rubin goal. After the break Zenit upped the tempo as they chased an equaliser but the hosts defended stoutly, relying on counter-attacking football to protect their lead and keep Zenit at bay.