Ten-man Al Ahli survived to play out to a goalless draw against Guangzhou Evergrande in the first leg of the AFC Champions League final at Rashid Stadium.
Both teams started cagily, and would remain cautious in possession throughout, though Guangzhou would create the first chance after 18 minutes when Brazilian midfielder Paulinho fired a shot from the edge of the box that went just wide.
Zheng Zhi nearly grabbed the lead seven minutes later with a classy volley from just outside the area, but Al Ahli goalkeeper Ahmed Mahmoud managed to tip it over the crossbar.
As the half progressed, Al Ahli came into the match more, and Ismail Al Hammadi forced the Chinese keeper Zeng Cheng into a smart save 12 minutes from time with a powerful shot from the edge of the area.
Within seconds of the restart, Huang Bowen came desperately close for Guangzhou, striking the underside of the crossbar as the ball bounced out of the danger area.
Yu Hanchao, on for the injured Ricardo Goulart, came close to breaking the deadlock 21 minutes from time, but Mahmoud was on hand to save his shot from close range.
Al Ahli were reduced to 10 men with five minutes remaining when full-back Abdulaziz Haikal was sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Gao Lin, but the visitors couldn't take advantage as the match ended in a stalemate.
The Chinese Super League champions will be the happier side, with the knowledge of the second leg to come on home soil, although Al Ahli could make things very interesting should they manage to grab an away goal in two weeks' time.