A hat-trick by Portuguese midfielder Danny helped ten-man Zenit St. Petersburg to a 3-1 win away to Volga Nizhny Novgorod in the Russian Premier League.
The result lifted Zenit, champions in successive seasons before missing out last time round to CSKA Moscow, into third spot in the table.
After four games, they lie three points behind leaders Rostov, who won at Anzhi Makhachkala on Friday, and two points behind Spartak Moscow before the capital club face Kuban Krasnodar on Sunday.
Danny converted a Roman Shirokov cross from the edge of the six-yard box to put Zenit in front in the 19th minute, only for Volga to equalise just two minutes later when veteran midfielder Andrei Karyaka took advantage of a defensive mix-up to fire past visiting 'keeper Yury Lodygin.
Zenit were then reduced to ten men in controversial circumstances before the half-hour mark when Brazilian forward Hulk was mistakenly shown a second yellow card.
Incensed at the decision, Zenit's Italian coach Luciano Spalletti was then dismissed by the match official for his protests, and Volga, spurred on by a sell-out crowd of 18,000, appeared to have the upper hand.
However, Zenit retook the lead with ten minutes remaining when Danny turned in a Vladimir Bystrov cross, and the Portugal international then completed his hat-trick a minute from the end with a curling effort into the top right-hand corner of the net from just inside the area.
"We showed strong character today and that helped us to win," said Zenit's former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoly Tymoshchuk.
"At half-time, we decided to continue playing our style of football despite an unfair decision by the referee and it paid off."
Just behind Zenit in the table are CSKA, who face Rubin Kazan on Sunday, and Dynamo Moscow, who beat Terek Grozny 1-0.
Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa netted the only goal of the match 19 minutes from time from Andrei Voronin's assist as Dynamo banished memories of last week's 4-1 loss to city rivals Spartak.
Elsewhere, top-flight newcomers Ural Yekaterinburg chalked up their first win with a 2-1 success at Tom Tomsk.