Piotr Trochowski scored a priceless away goal as Hamburg edged a compelling UEFA Cup semi-final first-leg clash with Werder Bremen 1-0.
A hugely entertaining all-German encounter could have had more than the one goal it provided, and it was perhaps the most unlikely source of all that settled it with the 5ft 7in Trochowski forcing in a powerful header after 28 minutes.
With Bremen midfielder Diego pulling the strings in midfield the home side always threatened an equaliser but it never came to put Hamburg in the box seats ahead of next week's second leg on their home turf.
Hamburg set about attacking their Bundesliga rivals from the start and Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese came to his side's rescue in the opening minute when he was quickly off his line to deny Ivica Olic's close-range strike with his feet.
A minute later Diego was forcing Wiese's opposite number, Frank Rost, into action with a low strike from outside the area that Hamburg stopper grasped low to his right.
Diego took little time to mark himself as the Bremen's dangerman, littering his first-half display with the types of mazy runs and clever passing that have led Juventus to open talks to buy him in the summer.
The Brazilian midfielder's chipped pass after 10 minutes was too strong to pick out Hugo Almeida's forward run before he was crowded out by the visiting defence.
But for all of Diego's threat Hamburg were producing the better chances and Wiese again had to be at his best to deny Paolo Guerrero's long-range shot.
Hamburg went ahead with 28 minutes on the clock when Trochowski belied his diminutive stature to force in a towering header at the back post.
Guy Demel was the architect as he whipped in a cross that caught Clemens Fritz out of position and left Trochowski unmarked to plant his header back across Wiese and into the net.
Bremen attempted to respond, again with Diego at the heart of their forward thrusts, but he was having one of those nearly nights when his passes were just missing their mark.
Under pressure he manufactured a pass across goal that eluded Claudio Pizarro and when he did find the on-loan Chelsea striker he could only head wide.
It meant Hamburg took their one-goal advantage into the break and when play resumed the match lost none of its momentum as both sides continued to attack.
Wiese was almost caught napping at his near post by a snap shot from Guerrero that flew into the side-netting while at the other end Rost atoned for his weak clearance by holding onto Almeida's follow-up header from six yards.
Guerrero then needlessly felled Fritz to earn a booking that will rule him out of the second leg and leave coach Martin Jol with a selection dilemma with Mladen Petric still likely to be out injured for that game.
After 65 minutes Olic could have got a second away goal when he broke clear of the defence only to shoot weakly into an advancing Wiese.
The tireless Olic then forged an opening for Jonathan Pitroipa, sliding a pass along the six-yard box, but the Burkino Faso international could only get a slight touch on the ball as it ballooned wide across the face of goal.
Mesut Ozil was now supporting Diego as a twin threat for Bremen and the former set up the Brazilian whose shot from the edge of the area drifted wide.
Substitute Markus Rosenberg then shot over from inside the area when he should have hit the target and Pizarro saw another effort blocked as Bremen stepped up the pressure.
Bremen had a claim for a late penalty when Pizarro headed into Demel's outstretched arm from close range but it would have been tough on the home side who held on to ensure they will be favourites to progress to next month's final in Istanbul.