German giants Schalke took a major step towards the Uefa Cup semi-finals after a 3-1 quarter final, first leg win over ten-man Levski Sofia in Bulgaria.
Despite failing to reach the knockout stages of this season's UEFA Champions League, the Gelsenkirchen club came from a goal down to secure a vital away win on Thursday evening.
It was Levski that claimed an early lead when Daniel Borimirov took advantage of a defensive error from Hamit Altintop to dispossess the Schalke midfielder before finishing past goalkeeper Frank Rost on six minutes.
The Bulgarians' joy was short-lived after they were reduced to ten men with ten minutes left in the first half, as Frenchman Cedric Bardon was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Schalke's Brazilian star Lincoln.
English referee Mike Riley's decision proved pivotal, as the Germans took control of the contest in the second half, with the visitors levelling three minutes after the break.
A neat one-two between Lincoln and Levan Kobiashvili set up Uruguayan substitute Gustavo Varela to strike home for 1-1.
Schalke claimed the lead midway through the half after a brilliant curling effort from the edge of the box from Lincoln after the Brazilian played a neat passing move with Christian Poulsen.
They claimed a firm grip on the quarter-final tie with 11 minutes remaining, as Gerald Asamoah converted on the rebound after Poulsen's far-post header from Lincoln's free kick came off the post.
With the second leg in Germany next Thursday, Schalke will feel confident of facing either Sevilla or Zenit St Petersburg come the end of the tie.
Click below for a match summary:
Levski Sofia 1-3 Schalke