Dmitri Kombarov's fine volley 21 minutes from time ensured FC Spartak Moskva will take a narrow advantage into their UEFA Champions League play-off second leg against Fenerbahçe SK.
Despite dictating terms for long periods, Spartak failed to capitalise until Emmanuel Emenike broke the deadlock 14 minutes into the second half. Dirk Kuyt restored parity with an instinctive finish six minutes later, before Kombarov's thunderbolt ensured Spartak will take a narrow lead to Turkey next week.
The hosts started with intent and optimism, but despite their elegant approach, they found it difficult to unlock Fenerbahçe's meticulously-organised back line. When Spartak did make incisive forays the final ball frequently proved their undoing until the lively Aiden McGeady produced a pinpoint cross, but Romulo's predatory instincts were denied by Gökhan Gönül's brave last-ditch tackle.
Unai Emery's side suffered a setback when the impressive Romulo was taken off on a stretcher moments later but emerged after the break with renewed promise. The visitors' cautious approach almost paid off when Cristian found himself unmarked to meet Mehmet Topal's inviting centre, but his goalbound header was superbly turned round a post by Andriy Dykan.
A moment of unease only served to fuel Spartak's ambitions. Full-back Kombarov was the catalyst, embarking on a buccaneering run down the left and teeing up Emenike, who nonchalantly diverted the ball beyond Mert Günok from close range. The lead did not last long, however, as Moussa Sow pounced on a defensive mix-up and provided a perfectly-weighted header for Kuyt to roll into an empty net. It was the former Liverpool FC forward's third goal in this season's competition.
Emineke, who had a brief spell at Fenerbahçe in 2001, almost came back to haunt his old club for a second time, but was denied by a smart stop by Mert. A second goal was not long coming, though, McGeady picking out Kombarov from the resulting corner, and the 25-year-old thundering a left-foot volley past the helpless Fenerbahçe goalkeeper.
Spartak consequently defended in numbers to effectively thwart their opponents and leave the tie, which concludes in Istanbul on 29 August, delicately poised.