Strikers Milan Baros and substitute Marek Heinz spared the Czech Republic the blushes with two second-half goals to give them a 2-1 win over debutants Latvia in their Euro 2004 football Group D match on Tuesday.
Latvia, the 500-1 outsiders playing in their first major tournament, can still look on the result as a great achievement after holding the lead for 27 minutes after scoring in first-half injury time.
Heinz struck the winner in the 85th minute after Baros hooked the ball over keeper Aleksandrs Kolinko and defender Mihails Zemlinskis cleared the ball straight to Heinz who steered it home.
Baros rifled the equaliser in the 73rd minute from a Karel Poborsky cross after the Latvians had shocked the Czechs with a brilliantly fast and simple counter-attack finished by striker Maris Verpakovskis on the stroke of halftime.
Baros had hung on to the ball too long after a fine crossfield break when he could have passed to the lurking Pavel Nedved on the right and lost it on the edge of the box.
The ball was played back into Czech territory down the left where striker Andrejs Prohorenkovs ran to the goalline and his low cross eluded covering defenders and keeper Petr Cech to reach Verpakovskis, who turned it in from less than a metre.
The Czechs had far more of the ball but rarely found the right touch when in sight of goal.
The Latvians gave away a string of corners as the Czechs, seeking to get an early breathrough, pinned tham back but the final ball always went Latvia's way.
With 10 minutes on the clock, Nedved's blistering shot from right was blocked by centre back Igors Stepanovs.
The Czechs could have scored in the 12th when Nedved crossed from the right but Kolinko just got a hand to the ball to deflect it from the head of the towering Jan Koller.
Latvia's strike partnership gave notice after a quarter of an hour of what might come later when Prohorenkovs broke behind Jankulovski on the right wing and sent in a low cross but Verpakovskis just failed to make contact from one metre.
Midway through the first half, midfielder Tomas Rosicky shot from the edge of the box, bringing a diving save from Kolinko.
With less than half an hour to go Baros chested a cross down in the box and turned but shot over the bar. He then missed a sitter from two metres when Karel Poborsky's right wing cross proved too high for Koller but fell to him at the far post.
Kolinko dived to his left to save a stinging low shot from Nedved with 20 minutes to go but it was left to the Czechs strikers to secure the victory.
Czech Republic (4-4-2): 1-Petr Cech; 2-Zdenek Grygera (18-Marek Heinz 56), 21-Tomas Ujfalusi, 5-Rene Bolf, 6-Marek Jankulovski; 4-Tomas Galasek (7-Vladimir Smicer 64), 8-Karel Poborsky, 10-Tomas Rosicky, 11-Pavel Nedved (captain); 9-Jan Koller, 15-Milan Baros (13-Martin Jiranek 87).
Latvia: 1-Aleksandrs Kolinko; 2-Igors Stepanovs, 4-Mihails Zemlinskis, 6-Olegs Blagonadezdins, 7-Aleksandrs Isakovs; 14-Valentins Lobanovs (23-Vits Rimkus 90), 3-Vitalijs Astafjevs (captain), 8-Imants Bleidelis, 10-Andrejs Rubins; 11-Andrejs Prohorenkovs (5-Juris Laizans 71), 9-Maris Verpakovskis (17-Marian Pahars 81).
Referee: Gilles Veissiere (France)
Linesmen: Frederic Arnault (France), Serge Vallin (France)