Late strikes by Philippe Coutinho and Neymar gave Brazil their first win of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in thrilling fashion against Costa Rica on Friday.
The win broke the Central American hearts in St. Petersburg by sending them out of the tournament, joining Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Peru on the sidelines.
The clock had ticked past 90 minutes, and the five-times champions looked to be edging to a second successive disappointing draw.
But when Real Madrid’s Marcelo floated the ball in from the left and substitute Roberto Firmino headed across to Gabriel Jesus it all changed.
Jesus’s first touch took the ball away from the defender and into the path of Coutinho who raced in to poke past goalkeeper Keylor Navas from six metres out.
It was the second goal of the tournament for the former Liverpool player who now turns out for FC Barcelona.
The result leaves Brazil with four points from two games after they drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their opening match, and they provisionally rise above Serbia to lead Group E.
Serbia who had earlier beaten Costa Rica 1-0 play Switzerland later on Friday, while Costa Rica are out of the tournament with defeats in both games so far.
Neymar added the second goal with practically the last kick of the match, volleying home Jesus’s square ball following a quick counter-attack as Costa Rica pushed for an equaliser.
The forward had thought he had won a penalty kick in the 77th minute, only for the referee to reverse the decision after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).
He was overcome by emotion at the final whistle, covering his face with his hands as tears streamed down his cheeks.
That was an apt reflection of how tense the match had been for almost its entire duration, with Costa Rica’s flat-back five keeping Neymar on the periphery.
Johan Venegas and Cristian Gamboa both man-marked the forward out of the game.
Marcelo’s tame shot straight at Navas in the 41st minute was the first effort on target from either side before the break.
Celso Borges spurned the best chance of the first period for Costa Rica when he ran on to Gamboa’s cut-back, but shot wide from eight metres out.
Brazil went into halftime with the boos and whistles of their own fans ringing in their ears but emerged for the second half with a renewed sense of purpose.
Jesus headed against the bar four minutes after the restart and Coutinho sent the follow-up effort narrowly wide.
The finish was frantic as Brazil swept forward in waves, only to be repelled time and again by Costa Rica’s stubborn defence, until Coutinho came to the rescue.