With all the highly-paid stars on show, the goal that clinched Real Madrid's place in the knockout stage of the European Champions League came from an unexpected source.
And it was a cruel blow for visiting Paris Saint-Germain, the dominant side at Real's Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday.
When Nacho Fernandez, Madrid born and bred, a product of Real's youth system, came on to replace injured Brazil international Marcelo after half an hour, his immediate mission was to help shore up a leaky defense being sorely tested by the French champions.
But just five minutes later the 25-year-old scored what would be the only goal of the game, putting Real into the last 16 with two Group A matches still to play. It also gave Real a record 19th group match unbeaten, moving clear of Spanish rival Barcelona.
It was hardly a beauty -- nor perhaps something he could easily recreate. Toni Kroos' deflected shot looped upwards, PSG keeper Kevin Trapp raced out of his goal to collect it -- and was caught horribly out of position as Nacho's volleyed cross bounced and spun wickedly into the net.
But it proved decisive for Rafael Benitez's team, missing forwards Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, and with fellow big-money signing James Rodriguez starting on the bench.
PSG's own expensively-assembled team created the better chances, with substitute Adrien Rabot striking the post with a first-time volley soon after Nacho's goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic went close with a curling shot, Edinson Cavani spurned a close-range chance before halftime, and after the break Angel Di Maria should have done better with an opportunity to score against his former team.
The Argentine also hit the woodwork with a late free-kick as Real keeper Keylor Navas remained unbeaten for the fourth successive game.
"We delivered our best match of the season -- an outstanding display," Di Maria said. "We made a mistake and were punished. We played 10 times better than Real. We'll carry on that way."
At the other end, Real's world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo failed to stamp his mark on the match, having also been stymied in the teams' 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes two weeks ago.
"They had a lot of possession and they also caused us problems on the counter," said Real's Sergio Ramos. "The bad news is the injury to Marcelo, who was in the best form of his career. We hope that it's not anything serious and he's ready for the next game."
Second-placed PSG will next travel to Ibrahimovic's homeland to face his first club Malmo, whose 4-0 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday meant Real went through with 10 points from four matches.
Shakhtar, which hosts Real on November 25, avenged its earlier defeat in Sweden to join Malmo on three points -- four behind PSG.
Oleksandr Gladky netted a first-half opener, ending the club's 333-minute wait for a goal in the competition this season.
Dario Srna -- with a penalty -- and substitute Eduardo scored within 10 minutes after the break before Alex Teixeira's header made it 4-0, then Kari Arnason was sent off for a second booking near the end.
On a good night for English clubs, Manchester City qualified for the last 16 by winning 3-1 at Sevilla.
Fernandinho set up Raheem Sterling for an eighth-minute opener and the Brazil midfielder doubled City's lead soon after with his first Champions League goal when Wilfried Bony's effort was only parried.
The Spanish club pulled one back on 25 when Koke crossed for Benoit Tremoulinas, but Ivory Coast striker Bony -- making the most of Sergio Aguero's absence -- netted at the near post from a low cross by former Sevilla winger Jesus Navas.
"The first feeling is 'finally,'" said City captain Vincent Kompany. "It's a difficult group and to qualify with two games spare is an incredible achievement. We now have to try to finish first in the group."
The result put City six points clear of Sevilla ahead of the trip to second-placed Juventus.
Last season's losing finalist battled to a 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach, which went ahead through American Fabian Johnson in the 19th minute.
Stephan Lichtsteiner leveled just before halftime with a superb volley from Paul Pogba's delightful lofted pass, but Juve ended the night a point behind City after Hernanes was sent off for a rash tackle.
"We had so many good chances, but if you don't make them count you cannot win a match like this," said the German team's midfielder Ibrahima Traore.
Manchester United went top by one point as England captain Wayne Rooney headed the only goal at home to CSKA Moscow, latching on to a volleyed cross by young midfielder Jesse Lingard in the 79th minute.
Louis van Gaal's team dominated possession but looked unlikely to break a four-match scoring drought until Rooney struck with his 237th goal for the club, leaving him level with Denis Law and 12 behind Bobby Charlton's leading total.
"We have created at least 12 chances and had to wait a long time," said United's Dutch manager. "Before that they could have scored and then it is a different match. I am happy. We played well."
PSV Eindhoven moved up to second on goal difference above Wolfsburg after winning 2-0 at home to the German side -- reversing the result of their previous encounter last month.
Luuk de Jong helped Jurgen Locadia put the Dutch side ahead 10 minutes after halftime, and de Jong sealed victory with five minutes to play from Andres Guardado's pass.
The result dropped CSKA to bottom place on four points.
Benfica went two points clear at the top after beating Galatasaray 2-1, despite having Nicolas Gaitan sent off in the final minutes.
Lukas Podolski canceled Jonas' 52nd-minute opener for the Portuguese club, but Luisao sank the Turks 15 minutes later before Argentine midfielder Gaitan went for a second booking.
Second-placed Atletico Madrid could only draw 0-0 away to Kazakhstan's Astana in the earlier match, and the Spanish team hit the woodwork in each half.
Both Benfica and Atletico can clinch last-16 places with victories in their next match.