Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka did the damage to give the Croats a priceless win away from home and give Slavan Bilic's side the upper hand with the return leg in Zagreb on Tuesday. Croatia turned up in Istanbul with revenge on their minds after being knocked out of EURO 2008 at the quarter-finals stage on penalties by their play-off rivals.
Croatia entered the play-offs after being edged out by EURO 2004 champions Greece in their qualifying group, while Turkey came in a country mile behind runaway leaders Germany in their group. The visitors suffered a scare in their final training session when Tottenham defender Corluka injured himself, but he took to the pitch wearing a special protective boot.
Croatia got off to the best possible start, racing into a two-minute lead when Bayern Munich striker Olic tapped in Corluka's cross from the left corner flag, with Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel found wanting. That was Croatia's fastest ever goal in EURO qualifying.
With Turkey in shock, Croatia's dream beginning almost got even better when Olic rose highest in the box only for Mandzukic's shot to go wide. Corluka and his Tottenham teammate Luka Modric were causing Turkey all sorts of problems down the left.
The Turks began to make their presence felt in midfield, but just after the half-hour mark Croatia doubled their lead on an electric counter-attack down the right. Darijo Srna sent in a peach of a cross with Modric's shot blocked. The ball found its way over to the right flank again and Srna tried again, this time Wolfsburg forward Mandzukic heading in by the far post.
Croatia almost added another on the stroke of half time, denied only by a great save from Demirel who rushed out to block Olic after the Bayern man was played in by Mandzukic.
At the start of the second half Turkey manager Guus Hiddink replaced right back Gokhan Gonul with attacking midfielder Gokhan Tore as the wily tactician attempted to save his side's floundering EURO 2012 bid. But on 51 minutes Corluka compounded Turkey's misery, escaping his marker to run onto Srna's whipped-in free-kick to head home from five metres.