Northern Ireland secured their first Group F victory to climb to fourth place and dent Russia's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying hopes.
In a match postponed in March due to adverse weather conditions it was the visitors who made much of the running early on without really testing Roy Carroll in the Northern Ireland goal. However, the hosts carried a threat and, having hit the post minutes earlier, scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 43rd minute via the head of Martin Paterson.
Fabio Capello's charges knew they could replace Portugal at the top of the section with victory at Windsor Park and they dominated much of the early possession. However, they failed to carve open a resilient Northern Irish defence with Olympiacos FC goalkeeper Carroll sharply off his line to clear with his feet ahead of the onrushing Kerzakhov.
Indeed, just as the game seemed destined to go into the break goalless, Northern Ireland launched two menacing attacks of their own. First, Jamie Ward strode towards the edge of the Russia box and unleashed a low drive which came back off the right-hand post but Paterson failed to convert the rebound.
The hosts, buoyed by their near miss, remained undeterred and took the lead two minutes before the break. Niall McGinn latched on to a long ball down the right and sent over an inviting cross which was met by Paterson, who opened his qualifying account with a powerful header into the bottom left corner.
The game followed a similar pattern after the break and Russia were unable to fashion an attempt on target. Northern Ireland rarely troubled Igor Akinfeev in the visitors' goal either and, content with a narrow lead, held on for their first win in ten attempts under Michael O'Neill.
Russia's misery was compounded when Vasili Berezutski picked up a yellow card that rules him out of their next outing at home to Luxembourg on 6 September. Northern Ireland entertain section leaders Portugal at Windsor Park on the same day.