Robert Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal as Poland earned a crucial victory over Saudi Arabia that leaves Group C wide open.
The Barcelona striker capitalised on an error by Saudi Arabia midfielder Abdelulelah Al Malki before sending a composed finish past onrushing goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais.
Lewandowski was visibly emotional after ending a run of four World Cup games without finding the net.
Piotr Zielinski had given Poland a first-half lead from Lewandowski’s cutback, but Saudi Arabia were awarded a penalty five minutes later for Krystian Bielik’s foul on Saleh Al Shehri.
Wojciech Szczesny kept out Feras Al Brikan’s effort before producing a sensational one-handed stop to prevent Mohammed Al Burayk from burying the rebound.
Saud Abdulhamid was denied by Sczcesny and Al Brikan shot over the bar in the second half, while Arkadiusz Milik and Lewandowski were both denied by the woodwork as Poland sought to double their lead on the counter-attack.
Lewandowski’s late strike ended Saudi Arabia’s hopes of building on Tuesday’s remarkable victory over Argentina and boosts Poland’s hopes of reaching the last 16 for the first time since 1986, when they were beaten 4-0 by Brazil in the first knockout round.
Czeslaw Michniewicz’s team play Argentina in their final Group C game on Wednesday, while Saudi Arabia face Mexico at the same time.
Wasteful Saudi Arabia rue missed opportunities
Lewandowski will steal the headlines after breaking his World Cup duck, but Saudi Arabia will be bitterly frustrated not to have preserved their unbeaten start to the tournament in Qatar after finding Sczcesny in inspired form.
Backed by a fervent and partisan crowd inside Education City Stadium, Saudi Arabia applied heavy early pressure and were denied a superb opener when the former Arsenal goalkeeper palmed Mohammed Kanno’s ferocious drive over the crossbar.
Poland looked increasingly rattled as the Green Falcons continued to swarm forward in waves, but Bielik’s goal-bound header was cleared to safety by Al Shehri before Zielinski gave them the lead with their first shot on target.
Bielik’s challenge on Al Shehri shortly before half-time initially went unpunished by referee Wilton Sampaio, but the Brazilian showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot after reviewing the incident on his pitchside monitor.
If Szczesny’s save from Al Brikan’s spot-kick was impressive, his fingertip stop from Al Burayk’s follow-up effort was spectacular – and will take some beating at this World Cup.
There was little change to the pattern of play in the second half, with Szczesny saving at the feet of Abdulhamid and Al Brikan sending a fierce, left-footed shot over the bar.
But Poland remained a threat on the counter-attack and struck the woodwork through both Milik and Lewandowski, and then it was Al Malki’s heavy touch that gifted the Barcelona frontman his first goal at the tournament and ended Saudi Arabia’s hopes of clinching their place in the last 16 with one game to spare.
Lewandowski could have doubled his tally in stoppage time, but Al Owais kept out the striker’s effort with a strong hand.
How to play
Rate players out of 10 throughout or after the game. The rater will close 30 minutes after the final whistle.
Rating range key = Give it up = Pure perfection
- 2CashBooked at 16mins
- 14KiwiorBooked at 15mins
- 20ZielinskiSubstituted forKaminskiat 63′minutes
- 7MilikBooked at 19minsSubstituted forPiatekat 71′minutes
- 21Al Owais
- 4Al AmriBooked at 45mins
- 5Al Bulayhi
- 6Al BuraykSubstituted forAl Ghannamat 65′minutes
- 8Al Wahbi Al MalkiBooked at 21minsSubstituted forAl Obudat 85′minutes
- 9Al Brikan
- 16Al NajiSubstituted forAl Abidat 45′minutesSubstituted forBahbriat 90+5′minutes
- 10Al Dawsari
- 11Al ShehriSubstituted forAl Shardan Al Dawsariat 86′minutes
- 1Al Rubaie Al Yami
- 2Al Ghannam
- 15Al Hassan
- 17Al Tambakti
- 18Al Abid
- 20Al Obud
- 22Al Suweiti Al Aqidi
- 24Al Shardan Al Dawsari
- Wilton Pereira Sampaio
Match ends, Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0.
Second Half ends, Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0.
Attempt missed. Mohammed Kanno (Saudi Arabia) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Salem Al Dawsari.
Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Hattan Bahbri replaces Nawaf Al Abid.
Corner, Poland. Conceded by Abdulrahman Al Obud.
Corner, Poland. Conceded by Sultan Al Ghannam.
Attempt saved. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Nasser Al Dawsari (Saudi Arabia).
Krzysztof Piatek (Poland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Abdulrahman Al Obud (Saudi Arabia) header from the right side of the six yard box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Nasser Al Dawsari with a cross.
Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Nasser Al Dawsari replaces Saleh Al Shehri.
Substitution, Saudi Arabia. Abdulrahman Al Obud replaces Abdulelah Al Malki.
Abdulelah Al Malki (Saudi Arabia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jakub Kaminski (Poland).
Goal! Poland 2, Saudi Arabia 0. Robert Lewandowski (Poland) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.
Attempt missed. Krzysztof Piatek (Poland) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Jakub Kaminski with a cross.
Foul by Feras Al Brikan (Saudi Arabia).
Bartosz Bereszynski (Poland) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Abdulelah Al Malki (Saudi Arabia) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.
Foul by Sultan Al Ghannam (Saudi Arabia).
Get your daily dose of Fifa World Cup reaction, debate & analysis with World Cup Daily on BBC Sounds