Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup's knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt's first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev's third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia's place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah's face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn't touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn't enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes' cross in the 59th. Dzyuba's goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.
Elsewhere, Japan surprised Colombia in their opening game at the World Cup in Russia Tuesday with a scrappy 2-1 win that saw the tournament's first red card.
The game was followed by another match that ended 2-1, with Senegal holding off Poland to become the first African team to win at the 2018 World Cup.
Colombia Vs. Japan
Colombia midfielder Carlos Sanchez, who was judged to have stuck out his arm to stop a goal-bound shot, was sent off just 3 minutes into the game at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Russia. It was the second-quickest red card in tournament history.
Shinji Kagawa converted the penalty to give Japan the lead, but 10-men Colombia leveled the score in the 39th minute with a free kick by Juan Quintero.
But even after Colombia's star midfielder James Rodriguez, the top goal scorer of the 2014 World Cup, was brought into the match, Colombia couldn't hold on to the tie. About 15 minutes later, Japanese striker Yuya Osako headed home a corner kick to take the 2-1 lead.
No team from Asia had ever beaten a South American team at the World Cup in 17 previous tries. Japan ended a four-game losing streak at the World Cup.
Colombia were undefeated in all three games they had played against Japan.
Senegal Vs. Poland
Tuesday also brought the final opening group-stage game of this year's tournament as Senegal faced off against Poland, which gave two huge stars for their club teams the chance to come through for their countries: Senegal forward Sadio Mane, of Liverpool, and Poland captain Robert Lewandowski, of Bayern Munich.
Mane has been one of the British Primier League's top players, scoring 13 league goals in his first season, then getting 10 in the league and 10 more in the Champions League in 2017-18. He scored Liverpool's only goal in the Champions League Final. For Poland, Lewandowski has 55 goals in 95 international appearances, including a European-leading 16 in 2018 World Cup qualifying, one more than Ronaldo scored for Portugal.
But neither scored in the match, which Senegal led from the 37th minute on a shot from Idrissa Gueye, which deflected off of Polish defender Thiago Cionek and into the net.
Senegal doubled their lead in the 60th minute through Mbaye Niang, who rolled the ball into an empty net after cutting between a Polish defender and onrushing goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to collect a long pass down the middle.
Niang had gone off with an injury moments earlier and was allowed back onto the pitch at midfield just in time to outrace the fullback to the ball.
A late consolation goal from Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak wasn't enough for Poland to claw their way back into the game.