BELGRADE A spirited Ireland held Serbia to a 2-2 draw in a pulsating World Cup Group D qualifier after taking an early lead and coming from behind on a slick surface on Monday.
Substitute Daryl Murphy salvaged a point for the Irish with an 80th-minute header after Serbia wingers Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic had cancelled out Jeff Hendrick's early opener.
"We made a fantastic start but Serbia had a lot of possession in the second half and we couldn't get the ball off them," Ireland manager Martin O'Neill told a news conference.
"We came roaring back after they had turned the tide and I thought we deserved that draw."
Hendrick stunned the home fans in the third minute when he beat keeper Predrag Rajkovic with a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was deflected in off Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic.
With competitive debutant Andrija Pavlovic replacing subdued striker Aleksandar Mitrovic on the hour, Serbia found another gear and struck twice in quick succession to turn the match on its head.
Kostic levelled when he swept home a rebound from a goalmouth scramble in the 62nd minute before he won a penalty after being hauled down by an Irish defender.
Tadic drove the spot-kick down the middle into the roof of the net in the 69th minute and Pavlovic could have netted a third, blasting his shot against the bar after Ireland keeper Darren Randolph spilled a tame Tadic effort.
Ireland had a goal disallowed for offside but got their reward when the bearded Murphy rose above his markers to score his first international goal.
The battling Irish enjoyed a slice of luck in the closing stages when they cleared the ball off the line as Serbia threw men forward in search of a winner.
Serbia coach Slavoljub Muslin was philosophical.
"Obviously, the scars from previous qualifying campaigns are still visible and it will take a bit of time to get things right," he said.
"We had a poor first half but improved after the interval and I am confident this revamped 3-4-3 formation will get the desired results in the upcoming games."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)