By Sean Davies
BBC Sport at the Millennium Stadium
Wales narrowly avoided another south-sea island nightmare as Samoa fought back from 17-6 behind in Cardiff.
New Wales fly-half Dan Biggar had a stunning start against the under-cooked visitors, his superb cross kick setting up Leigh Halfpenny for an early try.
The home side failed to capitalise on numerous breaks and on sin-bins for Lolo Lui and the awesome Henry Tuilagi.
Seilala Mapusua intercepted Biggar's pass for an 80m run-in, and Samoa blew chances to win it at the death.
Samoa's famous wins in Cardiff in the World Cups of 1991 and 1999 - the latter sparked by an interception try - had attracted Samoa fans to the Welsh capital, although some looked rather lost as they splashed into the Millennium Stadium in sandals.
But the storms were kept outside by the closed roof and the team looked ready as they delivered their spine-tingling Siva Tau war dance before the impressive 58,907 crowd.
Interview: Wales coach Warren Gatland
Wales were all business at the outset, Alun Wyn Jones stopping a full-blooded charge from Tuilagi on the gain line and rookie full-back James Hook confidently claiming a towering high kick.
Wyn Jones then broke the gain line from Biggar's pass, the move carried into the Samoa 22 by Dwayne Peel and Sam Warburton, who lost it at the tackle.
But Samoa had immediately played to type, full-back Lui decking 70-cap man Peel with a late tackle after he had off-loaded into Warburton's bread-basket.
The Apia back - one of just two Samoa-based players in their starting XV - was sent to the sin bin, Peel groggily getting back to his feet as Biggar opened the scoring with a penalty.
Fly-half Fa'atonu Fili equalised when Wales fluffed the restart, before the home side took advantage of the extra man with some swift and accurate attacks.
Quick ball came to Biggar, and the confident youngster made good on his pre-match boast that he would make Stephen Jones realise he has a challenger for the Wales 10 jersey with a perfectly weighted, high, cross-field kick.
Interview: Wales captain Ryan Jones
Halfpenny caught the ball at full tilt, David Lemi grabbing his man but having no chance of preventing the Blues wing crossing in the corner.
Biggar narrowly failed to convert, but another superb kick to the corner from the 20-year-old gave the position for his second penalty to extend the lead to 11-3.
Samoa kept Wales honest with some trademark hits, Andy Powell, Gethin Jenkins and Huw Bennett amongst those to suffer from human wrecking-ball Tuilagi, and the physical pressure contributed to sloppy work from the home side at the breakdown and line-out, including once after they had spurned an easy penalty at goal.
More chances went begging after superb breaks from Warburton and Halfpenny, before the stewards did a passable impression of Tuilagi in bringing down a streaker.
The islanders' geographically dispersed squad had been together for less than a week, but by the half-hour mark they were gelling on their favourite Cardiff turf, given extra motivation by their stated aim of playing for the victims of the September tsunami that devastated their country.
Another bone-rattling charge from Perpignan number eight Tuilagi won the visitors a penalty, sent wide by Fili, but the Wellington fly-half made no mistake with another, easier kick to narrow the gap to five points at half-time.
A Wales penalty on half-way at the start of the second period was handed immediately to Halfpenny, suggesting a roasting from coach Warren Gatland at the break for failing to take points.
The wing converted superbly, but smart work was then needed by captain and man-of-the-match Ryan Jones to deny Samoa after Junior Poluleuligaga's fine kick.
Samoa's sensational try against Wales
Wales lost Tom Shanklin to injury then gained a man advantage as Tuilagi was sent to the sin bin for offside work at an attacking Welsh ruck, Biggar converting the resultant penalty to make it 17-6.
But they continued to spurn their opportunities, Warburton crumbling with a knock-on after a Peel break and superb runs from Hook and Tom James coming to nothing.
As the game entered its final quarter, Wales looked to push their advantage and Biggar fired out a wide pass on the Samoa 22.
The ball was easily plucked out by centre Mapusua who sprinted in under the posts for a score improved by Fili.
Another scintillating Hook break from his own 22 went unrewarded, before Poluleuligaga sent try-hero Mapusua into space.
He kicked wide where two team-mates were unmarked and clear on the Wales line, but - to the relief of the large home crowd - the ball dribbled out.
With Fili off the pitch Gavin Williams blew a penalty from in front of the posts, but the visitors had a last chance when Hook was hammered back over his line after fielding an awkward, bouncing kick.
Interview: James Hook & Leigh Halfpenny
The Welsh scrum came under horrible pressure five metres from their own line, but when Samoa spread the ball they spilled it, allowing the desperate home side to hack clear.
The islanders took a deserved and well-appreciated lap of honour at the end in front of an appreciative home crowd.
Wales now lead a memorable series between the two nations by four games to three, the first time they have been ahead since 1994.
There will be more than a shiver of anticipation down the spine of every Welsh fan when the two teams clash in Hamilton, New Zealand, in the 2011 World Cup.
Wales: Hook; Halfpenny, Shanklin, J. Roberts, T. James; Biggar, Peel; Jenkins, Bennett, P. James, A. Jones, Charteris, Powell, Warburton, R. Jones. Replacements: J. Davies for Shanklin (49), Rees for Bennett (63), Mitchell for P. James (63), B. Davies for Charteris (73), Thomas for Warburton (73). Not Used: M. Roberts, Stoddart.
Samoa: Lui; Lemi, G. Williams, Mapusua, A. Tuilagi; Fili, Poluleuligaga; Va'a, Schwalger, Johnston, Levi, Tekori, Stowers, Treviranus, H. Tuilagi. Replacements: Fa'afili for A. Tuilagi (56), Mai for Fili (68), Taulafo for Va'a (74), Thompson for Tekori (57), Fa'amatuainu for Treviranus (64). Not Used: A. Williams, Esau.
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