Artyom Dzyuba stole the show as Zenit moved into the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win at Lyon, where both sides had a man sent off.
Dzyuba, who also scored in the reverse fixture, hit both goals at Stade Gerland on Wednesday to ensure the Russians maintained their 100 per cent record in Group H, which is propped up by winless Lyon.
Zenit, 3-1 winners over the Ligue 1 side on home soil, headed into the fixture knowing victory would secure their spot in the competition’s next phase with two games remaining.
And the visitors came flying out of the blocks as Hulk’s cross paved the way for Dzyuba to open the scoring midway through the opening half.
Lyon responded impressively, yet were left to rue a series of missed opportunities when Hulk fed his strike partner for a second in the 57th minute.
There was more drama to come as both sides were reduced to 10 men, Maxime Gonalons shown red for the hosts before Zenit’s Aleksandr Anyukov also received a second yellow card.
But neither dismissal impacted the outcome, with Zenit virtually guaranteeing they will end as Group H winners, while Lyon need to win their final two fixtures to have even the faintest hope of progressing.
The visitors were handed a boost before the game kicked off, with Andre Villas-Boas able to call upon star striker Hulk following injury.
Zenit almost went ahead in the 16th minute, a marauding run by Domenico Criscito ending with a fine cross that Anthony Lopes parried into the path of Dzyuba. However, the forward’s subsequent effort was blocked on the goal line by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
That seemed to awaken Lyon, who created a good opening of their own soon after when Sergi Darder was denied by Yuri Lodigin.
The game took on an end-to-end nature and Zenit seized the initiative in the 25th minute.
Hulk was the orchestrator, standing up his defender before creating an angle and sliding a fine pass to Dzyuba – who curled into an empty net.
Lyon continued to look a threat, however, and should have equalised when Corentin Tolisso curled just wide from 12 yards.
An even better chance went begging in the 32nd minute as Yanga-Mbiwa hit a sitter wide after Gonalons’ effort had been pushed away by Lodigin.
Lyon continued to dominate thereafter, Henri Bedimo striking narrowly over before Lodigin raced from his line to deny Tolisso from point-blank range.
They again almost levelled just before the interval, only for Darder’s fizzing 25-yarder to fly narrowly wide.
The break appeared to halt the hosts’ momentum as Zenit emerged reinvigorated for the second half.
And Lyon were hit by a sucker punch in the 57th minute when Hulk played a perfect throughball that Dzyuba poked beyond Lopes and into the net.
Hubert Fournier’s men never posed the same threat following Gonalons’ sending off, with Zenit almost grabbing a third as Lopes turned away Hulk’s 25-yard free-kick.
The only negative for Zenit was Anyukov’s red card, although him serving his suspension in a game with little riding on it will doubtless please Villas-Boas.