Playing a competitive home match outside Moscow for the first time in their history, Russia beat Albania 4-1 in Volgograd, with Sergei Semak scoring twice to banish the disappointment of their abandoned Group 10 game against Georgia on Saturday.
The local stadium was a 15,000 sell-out, with many sections of the stadium unavailable due to reconstruction work. Valeri Gazzaev's side got off to a flying start when Rolan Gussev dashed down the right after just three minutes and supplied a cross for Alexander Kerzhakov, who headed past Foto Strakosha to score his third goal in three games for Russia.
The Albanians were level on 13 minutes when Klodian Duro's powerful free-kick went through the Russia wall and caught goalkeeper Sergey Ovchinnikov by surprise. However, on 42 minutes Dmitri Loskov fed Sergei Semak with a neat pass and the PFC CSKA Moskva striker finished comfortably to put his side back in front.
In the second half, Russia coach Valeri Gazzaev removed playmaker Loskov and introduced SC Rotor Volgograd's Evgeni Aldonin in a move that Gazzaev admitted after the match was "the key to taking control of midfield".
Russia started the second half at a canter. On 52 minutes Viktor Onopko headed into the net from Gussev's corner and two minutes later Semak's brilliant 25-metre effort left Strakosha helpless and put the result beyond doubt.
"We had our chances, but the Russians turned the game in just three minutes," said Albania coach Giuseppe Dossena after the game. His Russian counterpart, Gazzaev, said: "The Albanians had the better of us in midfield in the first half, before we readjusted in the second." Russia now have a maximum six points from their first two qualifiers.