Yu Hai struck in the 81st minute to give China PR a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in their AFC Asian Cup 2015 opener in Brisbane and the perfect start to the competition for coach Alain Perrin's side.
The Group B game between two evenly matched sides appeared to be headed for a draw until Yu's free kick from 30 metres out took a wicked deflection and left Saudi keeper Waleed Abdullah stranded.
China dominated the first half, but Saudi Arabia improved after the interval and should have taken the lead in the 59th minute after Naif Hazazi was awarded a penalty, but his tame spot kick allowed goalkeeper Wang Dalei to save with his legs.
The Saudis looked the more likely to score, Salem Aldawsari heading straight at Wang, while Omar Howsawi's volley blazed over the crossbar. But the Chinese, runners-up in 1984 and 2004, defended superbly and caught their opponents with a classic sucker punch, leaving the former champions with little time to mount a response.
Elsewhere in Group B, goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov's lightning reflexes spared Uzbekistan as the 2011 semi-finalists beat Korea DPR 1-0. Nesterov saw little action throughout the game but he was alert enough to palm away Pak Kwang-Ryong's powerful header just before the final whistle.
Man-of-the-match Igor Sergeev's 62nd-minute header was the only score of a game hit by a mid-match downpour, but Uzbekistan deserved their win in Sydney. Two-time Asian player of the year Server Djeparov set up the goal as Uzbekistan, lofting a cross for Sergeev to leap and nod past the stranded Ri Myong-Guk in the North Korean goal.
"I'd like to thank our goalkeeper, it was a great save," said Uzbek coach Mirdjalal Kasimov. "But it was a victory of the whole team, I'm happy with all my players."
"I really think it was unfortunate, but the result is the result," said North Korea's coach Jo Tong-Sop, when asked about Pak's late effort. "If we make better chances and attack much more than tonight, we'll have a better chance."
Taeguk on target
Meanwhile, in the day's early kick-off Korea Republic got off to a winning start in their quest for a first Asian Cup trophy in 55 years thanks to a solitary goal from forward Cho Youngcheol in first-half injury time. The Taeguk Warriors dominated possession at Canberra Stadium and had several chances to kill the game, but were lucky to take all three points after Oman almost snatched a draw late on.
Star Son Heung-Min came closest to opening the scoring after seven minutes when he dinked the ball over Oman goalkeeper Al Habsi, only for it to come back off the crossbar. Qatar-based marksman Cho broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when he reacted quickest to bury a rebound after a parry from Al Habsi, a poacher's goal that delighted a crowd overwhelmingly cheering for the Koreans.i atoned for his earlier mistake by tipping over a powerful Koo Jacheol header just short of the hour mark.
They pushed for a second but were unable to capitalise on their possession and almost paid for it at the death. Oman substitute Imad Al Hosni almost snatched an unlikely draw when his header was superbly tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Kim Jinhyeon.