Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's close-range strike earned Schalke a 1-1 draw with Czech champions Viktoria Plzen in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie.
The Dutch international cancelled out Vladimar Darida's first-half volley with a potentially crucial away goal that gives Schalke the edge going into the second leg.
The winners of the tie will meet either Steaua Bucharest or Steve McClaren's FC Twente in the last 16.
Huntelaar was Schalke's only real goal threat all evening and he forced a smart early save from Plzen goalkeeper Marek Cech, who turned his 18-yard shot behind for a corner.
Christian Fuchs then picked out Huntelaar near the penalty spot but Cech was again equal to the right-footed shot as Plzen weathered the early pressure.
Plzen took the lead after 22 minutes with their first shot on target - and only their second effort of the match - with a magnificent low strike from Darida.
Pavel Horvath had already tried his luck from 30 yards when he turned provider, collecting a short corner and picking out Darida on the edge of the box.
The 21-year-old midfielder met the lofted cross with a left-foot volley that angled across Schalke goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall and inside the far post.
Plzen, who drew 2-2 with AC Milan in the Champions League earlier this season, went in search of a second before the interval but Frantisek Rajtoral's 20-yard strike was tipped behind for a corner.
Schalke began to turn the tide - but still they could not find that priceless away goal, with Joel Matip directing a header wide from 12 yards.
Cech was called into action twice in quick sucecssion to deny Schalke, first to block Huntelaar's close-range strike and then to deal with the subsequent corner.
Schalke sent on Jefferson Farfan and Ciprian Marica and the changes soon paid dividends, with the pair combining in bizarre fashion to create the equaliser after 75 minutes.
Farfan collected a through-ball into the box and his shot deflected off both Cech and Marica before falling to Huntelaar, who poked it home from inside the six-yard box.