Clinton Morrison's superb late goal earned a lacklustre Republic of Ireland a fortunate 1-0 success over China at Lansdowne Road on Tuesday.
The quality of substitute Morrison's 82nd minute goal was in contrast to the overall nature of the Irish display.
Prior to Morrison's clever lob, China missed two great chances with Paddy Kenny denying Zhao Junzhe and Sun Xiang inches off-target after half-time.
Manager Brian Kerr felt the need to throw on Roy Keane in the second half.
Early on, Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott, earning his second cap, had penalty claims when Chinese centre-back Li Weifeng appeared to drag him to the ground in the box.
Elliott appeared set to open the scoring in the 14th minute when the ball fell invitingly in his path after bobbling around in the Chinese penalty area but Li Weifeng got back to make a last-ditch block.
Kilbane then rose above the Chinese defence in the 18th minute but his headed connection after Andy Reid's cross was straight at goalkeeper Li Leilei.
After a lull in proceedings, the Republic then had a scare in the 35th minute when goalkeeper Paddy Kenny had to move smartly to stop a snapshot from Zhao Junzhe.
Andy Reid (centre) battles with Junzhe Zhao and Weifeng Li
Three minutes before the break, Elliott went close to breaking the deadlock with a half-volley from the edge of the box which went inches over the top.
After the dull first half, Republic boss Brian Kerr introduced Liam Miller and Andy O'Brien for Kenny Cunningham and Damien Duff at the interval.
Miller burst into a threatening position on the edge of the Chinese box five minutes after the interval but his weak shot was easily gathered by goalkeeper Li Leilei.
However, China then missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the 54th minute with Sun Xiang inches off-target after he had outpaced Alan Maybury following a long ball over the top of the Republic defence.
Brian Kerr's displeasure at his side's lacklustre display became glaringly obvious when he departed from the pre-match script to introduce Roy Keane for Kevin Kilbane for the final 25 minutes.
The Manchester United skipper produced a threatening run in the 72nd minute but his path was obstructed on the edge of the box by Zhang Yongha although no free-kick resulted.
Morrison's goal came out of the blue with the out-of-favour Birmingham striker lobbing delightfully to the net after the Chinese goalkeeper had made an unwise dash off his line.
Three minutes from time, Graham Kavanagh tested Li Leilei with a fierce drive but in injury-time, Paddy Kenny needed to made a clean catch after the Chinese had won a free-kick on the edge of the Irish box.
Republic of Ireland: Kenny, Maybury, Dunne, Cunningham, O'Shea, Kavanagh, Reid, Kilbane, Duff, Robbie Keane, Elliott. Subs: Carr, O'Brien, Finnan, Miller, Murphy, Roy Keane, McGeady, Morrison, Doherty.
China: Li Leilei, Zhang Yongha, Li Weifeng, Ji Mingyi, Wei Xin, Sun Xiang, Chen Youngqiang, Hu Zhaojun, Zhao Junzhe, Shao Jiayi. Subs: Li Jian, Du Wei, Zhang Yaokun, Zou Yougen, Li Han, Shi Jun, Wang Liang, Zheng Bin, Huang Yong, Cao Yang.