Jose Gimenez bailed out Uruguay's all-star forwards with a 90th-minute winner to see off Egypt 1-0 in their World Cup opener Friday.
Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani each passed up opportunities to clinch the points against a Pharaohs side that kept Mohamed Salah on the bench, but it was center back Gimenez who proved the hero.
After the excitement of Group A rivals Russia's goal frenzy a day earlier, there was a serious lack of invention on show in Ekaterinburg.
Suarez missed two golden opportunities as goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy excelled, before Cavani struck the post with a late free kick, seemingly sealing a point for Egypt in its return to the finals.
But Gimenez rose highest to meet a set-piece and bury a header past El-Shenawy, celebrating a fine end to a week in which he signed a new contract at Atletico Madrid.
Egypt offered little in Salah's absence and is now under pressure heading into a clash with Russia, while Uruguay — and particularly Suarez — can breathe a sigh of relief.