S.S. Lazio teetered on the brink of a UEFA Champions League exit before a second-half comeback took them past FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti and into the group stage.
Following a 1-1 draw in Rome, this tie was finely balanced and it seemed that the Romanian champions were heading into the UEFA Champions League proper for the first time when Florin Bratu gave them a lead they held at the break. But Lazio were a transformed team after the interval: Tommaso Rocchi's penalty quickly levelled matters and he struck again to seal victory after Goran Pandev had put the visitors ahead.
Dinamo coach Mircea Rednic's decision to deploy Andrei Margaritescu and Adrian Ropotan as sweepers in front of the defence proved effective early on as Lazio danger men Simone Del Nero, Rocchi and Pandev found their efforts frustrated. The hosts were attacking at will, especially down the left through Adrian Cristea and Cristian Pulhac, and the latter crossed for Daniel Oprita to go close with an eleventh-minute header.
Ionel Danciulescu, making his 50th UEFA club competition appearance, forced Marco Ballotta to save with a smart shot, and not long before the half-hour Dinamo broke through as Bratu ran in from the right, cut into the box and fired in the opening goal. Lazio had done little of note in the first half, but within seconds of the restart their luck turned.
Dinamo defender Valentin Vasile Nastase, who had returned home this summer after five years in Italy, lost the ball on the edge of his area and in trying to win it back brought down Del Nero at the expense of a penalty, converted by Rocchi. Now Dinamo were struggling, and seven minutes later Lazio pounced on a Margaritescu pass in midfield and their swift counterattack was finished off by Pandev.
Home goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont denied Gaby Mudingayi while Pandev drove wide, yet Rocchi soon put the result beyond doubt as Lazio broke again and, all alone in the box, he made no mistake. Lobont then saved from Del Nero, but Lazio's place in Thursday's draw was assured. Dinamo, meanwhile, are a two-legged tie away from their third consecutive UEFA Cup group stage campaign.