Saleh Al Shehri struck, then Salem Al Dawsari.
One-nil down to Argentina and Lionel Messi and his World Cup favourites, suddenly Saudi Arabia were 2-1 up.
The Lusail Stadium trembled with Saudi support. The Argentina fans, shocked initially into silence, tried to galvanise their team.
But it was to no avail. Saudi Arabia, the Asian side ranked almost 50 spots below their No 3 opponents, had registered one of the great World Cup upsets.
If Ecuador spoiled the party against hosts Qatar on Sunday, what about Saudi on Tuesday? This World Cup has been seemingly built around Messi – he, of course, had opened the scoring – but the Argentina captain departed with a visibly vacant visage. This is not how his expected final World Cup was supposed to begin.
Wind back, and it was Messi’s penalty that got the scoring under way in the Group C opener, the Video Assistant Referee judging Saul Abdulhamid to have fouled Leandro Paredes in the area. Messi sent Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais the wrong way and, for what transpired to be the only time, the packed Lusail Stadium bowed to a superstar’s greatness. The final, don’t forget, will take place at the giant venue in little more than three weeks.
Oh, it could have been so different. Argentina would have three goals – yes, three – disallowed in the first half alone, all flagged offside. They arrived in a 12-minute blur. First Messi, who coolly dispatched the ball past Al Owais having raced clear, then Lautaro Martinez twice. The Inter Milan striker was denied to stand two beautiful pieces of skill: a wonderfully deft chip over Al Owais and then a step-over to flummox the Saudi No 1 that reminded of Ronaldo in his pomp. Probably best leave the Brazil comparisons there.
Although, for 10 second-half minutes, Saudi transformed into Selecao 1970. On 48 minutes, Herve Renard’s men won the ball in midfield, Al Shehri charged forward and past the robust Cristian Romero, and dispatched superbly a low finish beyond Emiliano Martinez.
Six minutes later, Saudi were in front. Al Dawsari evaded a collection of Argentine markers on the corner of the area with typically quick feet before he curled an unstoppable shot high into the opposition net.
The Lusail erupted. As it did with every Saudi tackle – Hassan Tambakti was immense – block, clearance. Or twice when Al Owais repelled Argentina. The save just after the hour, when Lisandro Martinez's shot deflected off Nicolas Tagliafico at point-blank range, was as impressive as Al Dawsari’s goal. As it turned out, as valuable, too.
For Saudi hung in and hung on. They’d only gone and done it, against the reigning South American champions, no less. On World Cup 2022 Day 3, they defeated Argentina and Lionel Messi and his World Cup favourites.