Manchester City were cruelly denied a famous result as they lost 3-2 to Real Madrid having led twice in their opening Champions League fixture of the season at the Bernabeu.
After the Premier League champions spent so much time withstanding one onslaught after another from their Spanish counterparts, substitute Edin Dzeko put the visitors in front midway through the second half.
Just as City began to believe they could inflict a first ever defeat in an opening match of a European Cup campaign for Real Madrid, however, the nine-times winners equalised via Marcelo's 75th-minute strike.
Any question of both sides settling for a point at that late stage was dispelled as Real pushed for a winner, which came in the 90th minute via Cristiano Ronaldo's right-footed strike.
Having crashed out of the group stage last term in their first season in the competition, City will be all too aware how those dropped points could come back to cost them in a Group D which also includes Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
Real, for their part, while be delighted with a victory of any sort having only picked up four points from the first 12 available to them in La Liga this season.
Both teamsheets contained a fair few surprises, so much so that many thought there had been a mix-up by UEFA. But the matchday squads released were correct first time, with Michael Essien being given his Real Madrid debut ahead of both Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric and 19-year-old defender Raphael Varane being selected ahead of Sergio Ramos.
City fielded a 19-year-old at the back themselves, giving summer signing Matija Nastasic his debut ahead of Joleon Lescott. Sergio Aguero was only deemed fit enough for the bench after his month-long absence through injury but Gareth Barry returned from his own lay-off as Mario Balotelli and James Milner were left out of the squad altogether.
This was not the Manchester City which cut swathes through so many teams en route to the Premier League title last season, but was instead that which set out to do little else other than stifle the top opposition in order to finish in the top four two years ago.
That is not necessarily a shameful approach when visiting the home of the Bernabeu, but a match between the champions of Spain and England having a half-time shot count of 16 to one in one side's favour is quite alarming.
Joe Hart was by far City's best player, and he needed to be as Real were dominant throughout. It looked as though there was going to be a running duel between the England number one and Ronaldo after the Portuguese forward had a stinging early effort parried by the City keeper.
However, Hart had to be at his best against Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentina striker was guilty of not guiding a close-range header past Hart after he latched onto a Ronaldo shot, and then he could not find a way around the keeper after being sent clean through by Angel Di Maria.
It was Di Maria who was perhaps the most impressive player in the Real team, with the Argentinian becoming increasingly influential as the first half wore on, especially after Kolarov replaced the injured Samir Nasri after 35 minutes.
After the break the pattern of the first half resumed immediately, with Marcelo coming closest via two well struck left-footed efforts that flashed just wide.
However, it was City who broke the deadlock when Dzeko – only seven minutes after replacing David Silva – was in space to receive Yaya Toure's pass after a typically rampaging counter-attacking run from the Ivorian and finish coolly past Iker Casillas.
Buoyed by that goal, City began to find more space in the Real half and looked as though they were going to increase their lead, but it was Real who scored next. Having been off target with his favoured left foot, Marcelo got Real back on terms with his right-footed effort which took a deflection off Javi Garcia.
With just five minutes remaining Kolarov put city ahead again when his left-footed free-kick delivery from the right deceived Casillas and snuck inside the far post without taking a touch from anyone.
It looked like that goal from the player who opened City's Champions League account last season would be enough to settle the affair in Madrid, but almost immediately Real hit back once more when Benzema turned on the edge of the box and drilled a clinical low strike into the bottom corner.
A sharing of the points looked the fair result based on the final half-hour's action, but Real grabbed a victory which their statistics across the night deserved when Ronaldo cut in from the left and his low shot moved significantly enough to get the better of Hart and send the Bernabeu into raptures.
City only have little time to dwell on this result, as they host Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday. Just 10 days after that clash they welcome German champions Dortmund to the Etihad Stadium for a game which will already feel like a must-win for them.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Angel Di Maria - Real Madrid: The Argentina international didn't get on the scoresheet, but he was a constant thorn in City's side.
MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS
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