Substitute Antonio Di Natale struck four minutes from time to earn Udinese Calcio a deserved draw against Werder Bremen in a wonderfully open UEFA Champions League Group C game at the Friuli stadium.
Di Natale showed impressive composure to finish emphatically after fellow substitute Stefano Mauri's excellent through-ball. Earlier, Udinese defender Felipe had headed into his own net as the visitors seemed poised for their first win.
Vincent Candela returned for the hosts, deployed as a left wing-back by coach Serse Cosmi in a 5-3-2 formation. Giampiero Pinzi replaced the suspended Vidigal in midfield and David Di Michele partnered Vincenzo Iaquinta in attack. Bremen, meanwhile, opted to field Nelson Valdez alongside Miroslav Klose in place of the suspended Ivan Klasnić, in the hope that his pace would expose 39-year-old Argentinian veteran Roberto Sensini.
Felipe on form
Desperate for points, Bremen began with the greater urgency. A timely intervention from Felipe stopped Valdez when he raced on to an early pass from Johan Micoud and the Brazilian was also alive to the threat of the Paraguayan international when Tim Borowski's ball found him stealing into the area. But as the first half wore on, the Italian outfit started to look more dangerous.
Di Michele miss
Udinese's game plan was simple: soak up the pressure then hit the German team on the counterattack. Di Michele showed some delightful touches and should have given his side the advantage in the 31st minute when his one-two with Sulley Ali Muntari left him with only the keeper to beat. Somehow, though, the 29-year-old contrived to toe-poke the ball wide.
Iaquinta off target
That sparked a period of profligacy from Udinese with Iaquinta the culprit twice in the space of three minutes. On 36 minutes, the Italian international appeared set to score but sliced his shot horribly wide from the corner of the area. Then Christian Obodo dispossessed Micoud in midfield and put Iaquinta clear but after drawing Andreas Reinke, he skewed a low effort wide of the left-hand post.
The reckless finishing was almost punished on the stroke of half-time when Micoud struck the angle of bar and post with a fierce drive from 20 metres, following up after Frank Baumann's initial attempt had been blocked.
Di Michele continued his erratic display after the break and came off on the hour for Paulo Barreto. Felipe had impressed so far, but on 65 minutes made the first crucial mistake by scoring at the wrong end. An inswinging free-kick was delivered at speed into the area by Christian Schulz and Felipe inadvertently headed past the powerless Morgan De Sanctis.
Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf had predicted "an interesting game" and true to expectation, it opened up, Micoud flashing another long shot just wide as the visitors grew in confidence. At the other end, Reinke spilled Muntari's strike from distance at the feet of Barreto. But, his back to goal, the Brazilian failed to guide the ball into an empty net.
With 15 minutes left Cosmi threw on attacking options in Di Natale and Mauri, but it was De Sanctis who was called upon next as he stretched to divert Baumann's goalbound header from danger. Eventually, the move was vindicated with Di Natale's goal which leaves Udinese joint second behind FC Barcelona, with Bremen a further three points adrift after registering their first point.