Former Russian international skipper and Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin was on target but three-time champions Zenit St Petersburg were still held to a 1-1 draw by Kuban Krasnodar on Friday.
Zenit came into the match without first-choice players such as goalkeeper Vyacheskav Malafeyev, Italian star Domenico Criscito, Russian full-back Alexander Anyukov, midfielder Roman Shirokov and Brazilian star Hulk, who are all injured.
In the 65th minute Arshavin, who came onto the pitch of the Petrovsky stadium as a substitute 10 minutes earlier, put Zenit ahead with a close-range shot from Alexander Kerzhakov's cross.
But Kuban's Romanian striker Gheorghe Bucur pulled his side level in the 79th minute when he redirected midfielder Ivelin Popov's 25-metre shot into the goal.
"We weren't impressive in the first half, but we didn't allow our rivals to create any threats," said Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti.
"After the break we upped the tempo and scored. We had chances to score another but missed all of them. It was just bad luck."