FC Internazionale Milano's blushes, and those of their besieged coach Roberto Mancini, were spared by two late goals from substitute Julio Cruz, the first a penalty, but FC Porto will wonder how this UEFA Champions League Group H game got away.
Inter laboured all evening in an eerily silent stadium, but whether the indiscretion of their fans last season was to blame for their plight was immaterial in the end and now they are strong favourites to progress to the knockout stage.
Inter, looking to put a recent mini-slump behind them, were without the injured Iván Córdoba while neither Esteban Cambiasso nor Javier Zanetti were fit enough to start. The 24-year-old Argentinian Nicolás Burdisso made his first start of the season at right-back and Chilean David Pizarro was given another chance alongside Juan Sebastián Verón in midfield.
Porto coach Co Adriaanse stuck to the side that drew with Portuguese Cup holders Vitória FC at the weekend which meant no place for Benni McCarthy in attack and, even more surprisingly, no place on the bench for fellow striker Lisandro López.
Inter struggled to find any rhythm at all and it was not long before they were made to pay in the most spectacular fashion when, direct from a free-kick 30 metres out, Hugo Almeida justified his selection ahead of McCarthy with a thunderbolt that flew past Julio César into the top corner of the Inter net. As perfect a strike as will be seen all season.
Adriano, attempting to return the compliment from a similar distance, hit the massed ranks of empty seats 15 rows back. The big Brazilian went a little closer with a near-post header moments later, and was then denied by Marek Čech's intervention after good work by Obafemi Martins. Luís Figo later fired one past the post from the edge of the Porto area, but Inter were flattering to deceive.
Robust back line
Martins managed to get his head to a subsequent Figo cross but only succeeded in directing the ball straight into Vítor Baía's arms, while Adriano looked a touch slow to react when he found space inside the area and Pepe got the block on his shot. There was scant encouragement for Mancini by half-time.
Whatever he said to them at the interval, the Inter coach kept it brief as the Nerazzurri players were back out ahead of their opponents, who sent on Raúl Meireles in place of Alan. For Inter it was not long before Cambiasso joined the fray in place of Pierre Womé, with Figo switching to the left and Verón to the right.
Adriano, plagued by a persistent shoulder injury, soon gave way to Cruz and Siniša Mihajlović made his second appearance of the season in place of Walter Samuel, but all the changes made little difference.
Just when it was getting hard to see a way back for Inter, Porto captain Pedro Emanuel mistimed a tackle on Pizarro just inside the Porto area and referee Manuel Enrique Mejuto González, who took charge of last May's epic final in Istanbul, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Cruz dispatched the penalty with aplomb.
Vítor Baía then did well to turn over a fierce free-kick from Mihajlović but Inter, and Cruz in particular, were in the ascendancy and the Argentinian's 82nd-minute header from Mihajlović's corner crept in past Meireles, standing guard on the post, to provide victory, and relief, for Mancini's Inter.