Martin O'Neill's side drew 2-2 in Belgrade
Daryl Murphy's first international goal for Ireland proved crucial as the Boys in Green came away from Serbia with a 2-2 draw.
In the opening World Cup qualifier for Martin O'Neill's side, they were dominated for long spells by their Serbian opponents in Belgrade but managed to hang on for a potentially vital point.
Ireland got off to a dream start after just three minutes of action at a rain-soaked Red Star Stadium.
Robbie Brady swung in a free-kick from the left which goalkeeper Rajković parried away. John O'Shea retrieved the ball and it was only cleared as far as Jeff Hendrick who struck a first-time shot through the crowd.
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic was on the line but could only deflect the shot into the net as Ireland took a 1-0 lead.
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick scores a goal ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
With Ireland struggling to maintain possession as the first half advanced, Serbia grew into the game and forced a low save from Darren Randolph on 22 minutes after Filip Kostic attempted a shot across the Ireland keeper from range.
However chances were at a premium with the Balkan nation testing the Irish rearguard from a succession of corners.
Jon Walters had a sight of goal from a set piece as his header flicked across goal on 36 minutes but the keeper saved and Brady's diligent tracking back prevented Aleksandar Mitrovic from exploiting momentary space in the Irish defence.
Ireland managed to hold on to the narrow 1-0 advantage until the half-time whistle as Serbia were booed off.
The Boys in Green, as in the first half, were struggling to keep hold of the ball and on the hour mark the increased pressure from Serbia finally had a result.
The Ireland defence failed to clear as Dusan Tadic tried to work his way deeper into the box and the ball fell for Kostic, who was free six yards out. He made no mistake, beating Randolph from close range.
Republic of Ireland's Jeff Hendrick receives a yellow card from referee Viktor Kassai ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Things went from bad to worse just six minutes later as the referee awarded a harsh penalty as Kostic went to ground at the edge of the box, with the referee deeming that the back-tracking Jon Walters was at fault.
Tadic of Southampton made no mistake from the spot sending the ball high into the net.
On 73 minutes, shortly after Serbia had hit the bar from close range, Ireland thought they had equalised but Walters' header was ruled out for offside.
On 78 minutes, Shane Long forced a save from the Serbia goalkeeper with a poked effort.
And two minutes later, second half substitute Daryl Murphy saved Ireland by heading in an equaliser at a corner to give the Boys in Green a point that had appeared unlikely.