Syria stunned 2007 Asian Cup finalists Saudi Arabia as Abdulrazak Al Husein's double at Al Rayyan Stadium was enough to get their Group B campaign off to a fine start.
Al Husein found the back of the net with deflected efforts either side of Taiseer Al Jassam's equaliser to send Syria top of Group B following Japan's earlier 1-1 draw with Jordan.
Yasser Al Qahtani, who was an injury doubt before the game, was declared fit but the 28-year-old striker failed to make a significant impact.
Saudi Arabia did have the first clear-cut chance of the opening 45 minutes, however, when Abdoh Autef's exquisitely-measured pass played in Nassir Al Shamrani - but the striker pulled his shot wide with just keeper Mosab Balhous to beat.
Mohamad Al Zino then tested Waleed Abdullah at the other end with a powerful long-range effort that the Saudi goalkeeper managed to turn behind.
Syria then took the lead in the 38th minute when Osama Hawsawi could only clear as far as Al Husein on the edge of the box and his first-time drive took a slight deflection off Abdullah Shuhail's head as he tried to clear, but it was enough to deceive Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia equalised on the hour when Balhous punched Manaf Aboshgair's corner only as far as Al Jassam just inside the box and the substitute managed to generate enough power on his header to thread it through a crowd of players and past the flat-footed Syrian keeper.
Parity lasted just three minutes, though, as Sanharib Malki's cross from the right was knocked down to Al Husein on the edge of the area and his first-time shot struck Hawsawi's leg as the defender diverted it into the back of the net.
Saudi Arabia were then denied an injury-time equaliser when Balhous athletically clawed away substitute Naif Hazazi's header at full stretch just inside his near post, before Belal Abduldaim almost sliced into his own net. However, Syria held on to claim a famous victory.