PFC Levski Sofia have a mountain to climb in the second leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final against FC Schalke 04 after seeing their 100 per cent home record ended with a 3-1 defeat in the Bulgarian capital.
Stanimir Stoilov's side looked on course for a famous victory when Daniel Borimirov put them ahead after five minutes. But the Bundesliga visitors rallied after Cédric Bardon was dismissed for a second bookable offence, with Gustavo Varela, Lincoln and Gerald Asamoah all scoring in the second half.
Levski had won all their preceding UEFA Cup home games this season, and it seemed they would continue their impressive run after an early mistake by Hamit Altıntop allowed former TSV 1860 München star Borimirov to steal in. The striker-turned-midfielder showed the wisdom of his 36 years as he cleverly put the ball through Mladen Krstajić's legs before poking a shot low past Frank Rost from 12 metres to send the home supporters into raptures.
The tide began to turn after French forward Bardon was shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Lincoln on 35 minutes. Still, Levski maintained their composure and Schalke were limited to one notable chance before the break, Søren Larsen heading on to the top of the crossbar from Lincoln's corner.
However, the scores were level within three minutes of the restart. Lincoln struggled to find a way through four Levski defenders, but the ball squirmed out for Varela, who swept it into an empty net. Valeri Domovchiyski subsequently passed up an invitation to restore Levski's advantage, and that near miss was compounded by Lincoln putting the Gelsenkirchen team ahead in the 69th minute, finding the target with a curling shot from 20 metres.
Asamoah then added a third for Schalke eleven minutes from time, nodding past Georgi Petkov in the Levski goal after Christian Poulsen's effort had rebounded off a post, leaving the Bulgarian side with it all to do in Germany next week.