Saudi Arabia's fight went in vain as they lost by 2-0 to Poland at Education City Stadium on Saturday. Robert Lewandowski, scoring his 77th international goal, finally broke his Fifa World Cup duck with a second-half goal to seal the match in favour of Poland who took a significant step towards reaching the knockout stage for the first time in 36 years.
The clash between Saudi Arabia's front-foot approach - which carried them to a historic victory against Argentina earlier in the week - and Poland's agriculture style concocted a battling contest.
Up against the hassling green shirts, Czeslaw Michniewicz's side was all too keen to fall back upon a direct, airborne journey up the pitch.
Talisman Lewandowski's penalty failure against Mexico had denied Poland an opening win, but he and they made amends at Education City Stadium, toppling Argentina's conquerors to blow Group C wide open.
Although Saudi Arabia were largely more impressive than in their smash-and-grab defeat of Argentina, they again fell behind and this time could not recover – the latest episode of spot-kick drama making a hero of Wojciech Szczesny after he denied Salem Al Dawsari.
On either side of that save, Lewandowski assisted the opening goal for Piotr Zielinski and belatedly netted a breakthrough strike to make sure of a win that moves Poland to four points ahead of themselves taking on Lionel Messi and Co.
Matty Cash raced onto an incisive pass six minutes before the break and squared to Lewandowski, whose first touch took him away from goal before he cut the ball back for Zielinski's clinical finish.
The response might have been swift as a VAR review granted Saleh Al Shehri a soft penalty following contact from Krystian Bielik, but Szczesny sensationally repelled Al Dawsari's spot-kick and then – even more spectacularly – Mohammed Al Burayk's follow-up.
Szczesny had to come to Poland's rescue again 10 minutes after the restart, blocking with his legs from Al Dawsari, and Feras Al Brikan and Mohammed Kanno each blazed wildly off target.
Al-Dawsari, unfazed by his erroneous penalty, was a constant spoke in Poland's wheel. Saudi's skipper began a move that Jakub Kiwior failed to halt, clearing the ball into his own teammate before it fell to Al-Dawsari a handful of yards from goal. Yet, Szczesny was there to smother again.
Saudi Arabia scored twice against Argentina with just three shots but that clinical edge deserted them in the desert on Saturday. Renard's side repeatedly poured forward but time and again didn't test Poland's resilient number one, with Mohamed Kanno and Firas Al-Buraikan guilty of blazing over.
Poland squandered chances to put the game to bed as first Arkadiusz Milik and then Lewandowski worked the frame of the goal, but the Barcelona man eventually got his goal after pinching possession from Abdulelah Al Malki and finishing calmly.
As Saudi's search for an equaliser became increasingly desperate, Poland surged into the widening gaps on the counter. Arkadiusz Milik cannoned a header off the crossbar before Lewandowski's scuffed effort was tipped onto the post moments later.
A lapse in concentration in the final ten minutes from Saudi's Abdulelah Al Malki presented Lewandowski with a golden chance to break his duck at the World Cup, Having stolen possession himself, Lewandowski tucked his first tournament goal under Al Owais.
Poland's skipper was denied a second in the closing stages but the result had been won by his goal. Victory moved Poland above Saudi Arabia, to the top of Group C on four points.
Played in front of a raucous – primarily Saudi – crowd, a kind observer might call this encounter "competitive". Players from both sides thundered into challenges, occasionally with both arms and legs.
In the opening 30 minutes, the sides shared more yellow cards (four) than shots (three). By half-time, there had been five bookings – the most cards at that stage of a World Cup game since the famously feisty 2010 final.
With this win, Poland climb to the top of the group with 4 points to their name. Saudi Arabia are sitting in the second position with 3 points.
Poland must still play their toughest fixture on paper, taking on an Argentina side who will need to win. Saudi Arabia remain in contention ahead of facing Mexico at the same time on Wednesday.