Ante Rukavina scored a last-minute goal to give GNK Dinamo Zagreb a narrow advantage ahead of next week's away tie at FC Sheriff, who gave last season's UEFA Champions League group stage contenders a real battle.
Krunoslav Jurčić's side will feel they should be a lot closer to the play-offs after controlling the game for long spells, especially with Junior Fernándes striking the woodwork. However, the Moldovan side made Dinamo work for everything and looked like returning home all-square before substitute Rukavina headed an 89th-minute winner.
After their 5-0 success in the previous round at FK Sutjeska, Sheriff were quickly made to realise that life on the road in Europe is not always plain sailing, as Dinamo swiftly wrested control of the midfield. Said Husejinović failed to convert an excellent opening for the hosts after 16 minutes and Duje Čop could do no better with his free-kick shortly after.
The visitors had Vjekoslav Tomić to thank for keeping things level after the break, their Croatian goalkeeper producing an excellent save from Fernándes, and the Tiraspol side almost went ahead after a rare surge upfield, but Ricardinho could not squeeze his shot past Oliver Zelenika.
It looked as if it was not to be Dinamo's night when Fernándes struck the woodwork with 15 minutes remaining but the breakthrough finally arrived in the dying moments to set up an intriguing return next Wednesday in Moldova.