Two late goals by Lionel Messi saved Barcelona`s blushes in the Champions League here Wednesday as the 2006 winners stole a 2-1 away victory at Shakhtar Donetsk.
The little Argentinian scored in the 87th and 94th minutes to keep the Catalonians at the top of Group C after Sporting Lisbon beat Basel 2-0 at home. But the outcome of the match could have been oh so different.
Thierry Henry was the first to threaten in the seventh minute when he got on the end of a Samuel Eto`o lay-off but the Frenchman blasted the ball straight at a thankful Andriy Pyatov.
A couple of probing, yet ineffectual, efforts from Shakhtar`s Brazilian star Fernandinho were all the home side could muster by the 20th minute.
Barcelona looked capable of tempering Shakhtar`s sting early on as Yaya Toure and Daniel Alves marshalled the visitors` defence to harry their opponents into mistakes.
But the Catalans` calm began to look fragile as the home side pushed on, with Xavi picking up a clumsy yellow on the 41st minute.
Shakhtar have won just one league game in nine, but they put that miserable record behind them on the stroke of half-time when Brazilian Ilsinho popped up in the Barca box to send a right-footed shot into the roof of the net.
The Ukranians were hoping to repeat the glory night when they humbled the Spanish giants 2-0 in 2004, and at half-time nobody would have argued. Except perhaps Messi.
Barca bolted out the traps the quickest in the second half when Seydou Keita connected with a Xavi cross in the 54th minute to head wide.
Henry was next up up to test Pyatov`s pluck after being played in with a Xavi free-kick a minute later.
It was to be the Frenchman`s last effort as he was replaced six minutes later by wonderboy Messi.
The Argentinian made an instant impact when he threaded a perfect pass to the Eto`o but the Cameroonian hesitated then stumbled as the chance went begging.
Just as the home fans were beginning to rejoice, a horror mistake by keeper Pyatov gifted Messi a tap in in the 87th minute.
It could not have been an easier goal to score for the little powerhouse but it may turn out to be one of most important for Barca.
Then, with the whistle poised at the lips of the referee, the mercurial Messi popped up in the fourth minute of extra time to seal the steal for the visitors. Shakhtar will feel a little hard done by - and justifiably so.
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola said afterwards on Messi: "We know what Leo is capable of doing," before adding with irony: "Messi will from now on only play in the last half hours of matches (in reference to his recent successes after coming on as a substitute)."