Christian Gross enjoyed the perfect start as Stuttgart coach when his team stunned Romania's Unirea Urziceni 3-1 with three goals in the first 11 minutes to book their UEFA Champions League last 16 berth.
Although they lie 16th in the Bundesliga, Stuttgart are now amongst the best 16 teams in Europe and are in the draw for the next round on 18 December having got off to an electric start which left Dan Petrescu-coached Urziceni stunned.
"That was a fantastic start and it was great to take a 3-0 lead so quickly," said goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, who has plenty of UEFA Champions League experience from his five years with former club Arsenal. "We were hot, we were concentrated and we weren't so nervous.
"It was good motivation to qualify for the best club competition in the world. It is a paradox that we are the 16th best side in the Bundesliga and we are also amongst the best 16 teams in Europe. Now we have motivation to improve our Bundesliga position."
The victory sees the German side leap-frog the Romanians to finish second in Group G behind winners Sevilla as Stuttgart enjoyed only their second win in their last 14 matches to finish with nine points and leave Urziceni with eight. Former Tottenham Hotspur coach Gross only took charge of Stuttgart on Sunday after Markus Babbel was sacked having seen his side win just twice in their last 15 Bundesliga matches.
Romanian striker Ciprian Marica gave his new coach the perfect start to his tenure when he headed in Sami Khedira's cross from the right to put the Bundesliga strugglers ahead after just five minutes. Stuttgart kept up the frantic pace when Unirea was caught on the counter-attack and Christian Traesch supplied superb finishing when he drilled home his shot from the edge of the penalty area on eight minutes.
And Russian forward Pavel Pogrebnyak ended the tie as a contest after just 11 minutes when he showed his considerable strength by holding off several defenders before hitting Stuttgart's third goal. The game's tempo dropped considerably after that, but the Romanians came out firing after the break when Antonio Semedo, who took a heavy knock to the head in the first-half, scored straight after the interval.
It took less than a minute for the Portugal winger to find the back of the net after the restart and bring it back to 3-1 for the Romanians. Stuttgart refused to be rattled by the temporary setback and kept up the pressure on the Romanian champions' goal.
Urziceni goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis kept his side in the game with a series of fine saves and midfielder Timo Gebhart hit the crossbar with a curling shot and his cross was headed at Arlaukis by replacement striker Cacau. The Brazil-born Germany forward sent close again with two minutes left, but his side had long made sure of their place in the UEFA Champions League's last 16.