Republic of Ireland stayed unbeaten in their World Cup qualifying campaign after being held to a 1-1 draw by Bulgaria in Dublin.
With a crowd of 60,002 roaring them on at Croke Park, Richard Dunne scored in just 35 seconds after Stephen Hunt won a free-kick to the left side of the Bulgarian box.
Hunt played the ball into the penalty area where it was flicked on by John O'Shea for Dunne to nod home at the far post.
But Bulgaria were not rattled and went close through Dimitar Rangelov in the first period, before drawing level in the 74th minute via a Kevin Kilbane own goal.
The equaliser came after Radostin Kishishev crossed from the left to Stiliyan Petrov on the right who pulled the ball back from the byline and Kilbane unluckily turned it into his net at the near post.
Kevin Doyle could then have won it for the Republic in injury-time after he was found unmarked in the box by a Keith Andrews cross but his header lacked power and keeper Dimitar Ivankov easily gathered.
The result keeps the Republic in a strong position in Group Eight, with Giovanni Trapattoni's side seven points clear in second place ahead of their trip to Italy on Wednesday.
Ireland have developed something of a nasty habit in recent times of conceding early goals - they did it in November's friendly defeat by Poland and again as they had to come from behind to beat Georgia last month, much to the annoyance of their manager.
It was a pleasant change therefore for the Italian to see his side turn the tables and force their way in front almost immediately.
Having entrusted Hunt with the task of filling the boots of the injured Damien Duff, Trapattoni received an instant reward from the Reading midfielder.
It was he who won the game's first free-kick and then delivered it into the middle for O'Shea to flick on and Dunne to power a downward header past helpless goalkeeper Ivankov.
The Irish could not have dreamt of a better start but were to discover very quickly that the job was far from done.
Bulgaria had arrived without the injured Dimitar Berbatov, Martin Petrov and Valei Bojinov. But Trapattoni had been at pains to stress in the run-up to the game that there were other dangers - and so it proved.
Shay Given had to dive full length to keep out Petrov's fourth-minute drive from 25 yards - and as Bulgaria made the better use of the possession they were afforded, the Republic found themselves on the back foot at regular intervals.
They were almost pegged back with 27 minutes gone when Stanislav Manolev skipped passed left-back Kilbane and pulled the ball back invitingly for Blagoy Georgiev.
However, he directed his first-time shot too close to Given, who dived low to his left to save comfortably.
In the meantime, Glenn Whelan had forced Ivankov into a regulation save with a shot from distance.
But he and central midfield partner Andrews spent much of the half working to protect their back four, as Bulgaria looked for a way back into the game.
Trapattoni insisted before the game - and indeed, throughout his reign to date - that the result was all that mattered.
But he welcomed his players back to the dressing room at the break, knowing they needed to lift their game if they were to head off a Bulgarian fightback.
With Petrov dictating the play immediately after the restart, Ireland were seeing little of the ball - although as the half wore on, they gradually regained the shape which had been alarmingly lacking immediately after the restart.
Substitute Kishishev saw a 55th-minute shot unwittingly deflected wide by one of his compatriots - but Ireland came close to extending their lead on the hour.
Doyle got up well to head down O'Shea's free-kick to Robbie Keane, who controlled with his chest before firing in a left-foot shot which Ivankov saved well at point-blank range.
The goalkeeper was both villain and hero with 67 minutes gone when he punched a Hunt cross he really should have caught straight to Aiden McGeady but then recovered to make a vital save as the Celtic man side-footed towards goal.
But having failed to edge their way further ahead, Ireland paid the price with 16 minutes remaining.
Petrov timed his run to perfection to meet Kishishev's beautifully floated ball over the top beyond the far post - and when he turned it back across goal, the unfortunate Kilbane could only help it into his own net.
Keane curled a right-foot effort just wide in the dying moments, and Doyle headed straight at Ivankov - but there was to be no late escape.
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