The outlook was not so much gloomy as apocalyptic for Yugoslavia three-quarters of the way through this Group C opener. Trailing 3-0, Siniša Mihajlović compounded their woes by getting sent off; but then something incredible happened. Within the space of six minutes they were level.
Tournament debutants Slovenia, 150-1 outsiders at the start of UEFA EURO 2000, had been in dreamland, coasting after two goals from Zlatko Zahovič and Miran Pavlin's header. Mihajlović's indiscretions seemingly left them on the home straight but they eased off fatally. Substitute Savo Milošević pounced, scoring twice either side of Ljubinko Drulović's sweet left-footed strike to earn Yugoslavia a remarkable point.
Slovenia were crestfallen, inspecting the ruins of a match that had been going so well. Srečko Katanec's charges had soon been into their stride in unfamiliar surroundings, and Zahovič's 23rd-minute opener was merited. Aleš Čeh found space to run into on the left and delivered an inviting ball towards the penalty spot where the striker met it with a header directed into the bottom corner.
With Pavlin pulling the strings in midfield, Slovenia's neat passing game was proving irresistible. One beautiful move involving Pavlin, Čeh and Sašo Udovič created another great chance for Zahovič, but this time Ivica Kralj raced from his line and the shot spun away for a corner off the goalkeeper's legs.
Yugoslavia were sufficiently rattled to introduce the 35-year-old Dragan Stojković in an attempt to bring some composure. Had his crossing been more accurate two minutes before the break he may have done more than that after weaving some of the old magic and soon after the restart Mihajlović he tested Mladen Dabanovič with a free-kick. In the ascendancy, Vujadin Boškov introduced Milošević.
Yet almost before Yugoslavia's No9 had taken up his position, it was 2-0 as Pavlin headed in Zahovič's free-kick. Mihajlović was then booked for dissent and two minutes later a dreadful pass across the edge of his own area let in Zahovič for his second and Slovenia's third. To compound his error, Mihajlović was booked again almost immediately: Yugoslavia were down to ten.
Then came the fightback. First Miroslav Djukić retrieved a lost cause at the far post and Milošević turned the ball in after it bounced down to him off the bar, then Drulović rifled in. Three minutes later Yugoslavia were level, Drulović shrugging off Čeh and playing in a perfect ball for Milošević to sweep in the equaliser from close range.
To their credit Slovenia regained their footing, and it took Ivan Dudić's goal-line clearance to deny Željko Milinovič a dramatic late winner; Yugoslavia held on.