Two goals from Issam Jemaa helped give in-form RC Lens a clear edge with a first-leg victory in this UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie, though Panathinaikos FC will take heart from their away goal in France.
The game effectively came to life in the second half with Jemaa's superbly taken first-time effort shortly after the interval. Dimitrios Salpingidis brought Panathinaikos level but Jemaa wasted little time in restoring the hosts' lead and Aruna Dindane made it 3-1 for Lens from the penalty spot in the last minute.
Both sides spurned chances to go in front in a scrappy first half and when battle recommenced after the break, it did not take long for Lens to edge ahead. Daniel Cousin's flick set up Jemaa, whose left-footed shot found the net from outside the area in the 49th minute. Mario Galinović's smart save prevented Cousin from making it 2-0 and the busy goalkeeper next thwarted Dindane.
His heroics were rewarded at the other end in the 65th minute when Salpingidis took possession and equalised for the visitors from Greece with another effort from outside the box. Parity lasted only five minutes as Dindane teed up Jemaa to strike from close range and the Ivory Coast international got on the scoresheet himself with a late penalty after Yohan Demont was upended in the area.