Don't let the fact that you've probably never heard of Krylya Sovetov underestimate the sheer magnitude of this result.
Considering the calamitous league displays from Pat's at domestic level this year, last night's result at Richmond Park is the most improbable win achieved by an Irish club in some time -- regardless of what happens in next week's second leg in Samara.
Consider this: Right now, all the Saints and their Russian opponents share in common is that they are both placed seventh in their domestic league.
Even that is misleading; the Saints are arguably in a relegation battle, 22 points behind Bohemians; Sovetov are only seven points off the lead held by Rubin Kazan and just three points behind the Dinamo Moscow side that beat Celtic at Parkhead on Wednesday.
But despite spending the majority of this encounter without the ball, Declan O'Brien's 70th-minute strike secured a remarkable first-leg success for Jeff Kenna's charges. At half-time, you just couldn't have seen it coming. The Saints had spent the rest of their time chasing shadows with Sovetov dominating.
That said, for all their time on the ball, a combination of over-elaboration and a series of brave blocks from the home defence meant that Gary Rogers was never properly tested before the break.
And so, it was all square at the interval and considering Glen Fitzpatrick had struggled to fulfil his brief of holding the ball-up, the lone striker was replaced by Bobby Ryan, with O'Brien sent to his preferred striking role in a hybrid 4-5-1 formation. Boy did it work.
Sovetov retained the monopoly on the ball, and Rogers made his first smart save to deny Alexsandr Beloservo in the 54th minute as the visitors showed signs of frustration with a series of theatrical dives. As they pushed forward, they left gaps. O'Brien slipped away from ex-Chelsea and Celtic man Jiri Jarosik to fire straight at Eduardo Lobos on the hour mark, while the lively Ryan scraped paint off the post four minutes later. With 20 minutes remaining, it was a case of third time lucky.
Ryan Guy showed admirable composure to wander in from the right and play the perfect throughball for O'Brien who atoned for his earlier miss with a sumptuous finish. Pandemonium.
Unsurprisingly, Sovetov responded with Rogers -- so often the villain this term -- pulling out a stop from the top drawer to keep out sub Vladislav Kulik's free kick. There was more tension to come, with Guy heading over after another rapid-fire break as the game ticked into injury time and the Saints rode their luck again but, with Rogers to beat, Timofey Kalachev blasted wildly over.
Guy could have added another at the death, but the Saints have to settle for a one-goal lead heading for Russia -- a sentence which would have seemed unthinkable in the preliminaries.
© Irish Independent