Spain overcame some typically stiff resistance to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0 in an entertaining international friendly in New York.
Substitute Roberto Soldado broke the deadlock on 68 minutes and, after the Irish had a Sean St Ledger effort chalked off for offside, Juan Mata settled the contest at Yankee Stadium with two minutes remaining.
Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said before the match that he expected to lose and while he was not proved wrong, this performance was undeniably a marked improvement on what the Italian had to endure the last time his side met Spain.
Almost a year ago to the day, Ireland were thumped 4-0 in Gdansk as the Spaniards rampaged their way towards the Euro 2012 title. That outing - and a later 6-1 mauling at the hands of Germany in a World Cup qualifier - resulted in plenty of soul-searching within the Irish camp, but their latest efforts in front of an enthusiastic US-based crowd proved Trapattoni's side are at the very least on the road to recovery from those setbacks.
Despite fielding a weakened side due to a spate of withdrawals, Ireland managed to hold firm for the majority of the match and were only undone by one moment of opportunistic forward play and one glorious, free-flowing move.
Spain, gearing up for their Confederations Cup campaign which starts on Sunday against Uruguay, fielded a strong side boasting eight La Liga title-winning Barcelona players, including Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
That pair, alongside Manchester City's David Silva, looked as silky as ever in possession in midfield early on, yet for all the world champions' neat tiki-taka in the middle of the park, they lacked a killer instinct during a goalless opening period.
Vicente Del Bosque cut a frustrated figure just before the break, the coach holding his head in his hands with a pained expression on his face, after having watched his side spurn plenty of goalscoring opportunities.
Spain, as expected, dominated possession from the first whistle, although they were made to wait until the 19th minute before they registered a notable effort on the Irish goal; Gerard Pique's header, albeit rather weak, was cleared off the line by Paul McShane.
As the first half wore on, Spain's pressure increased and they nearly had their opener on 22 minutes when Pique and then Sergio Ramos could not quite apply a finishing touch in a goalmouth scramble from a corner.
Irish keeper David Forde had to be smart to foil David Villa on 39 minutes before Pedro came closest to breaking the deadlock on 41, crashing a brilliant effort off the underside of the crossbar.
It wasn't all one-way traffic though and the Irish threatened sporadically on the break or from set pieces; Andy Keogh sent an overhead kick into the crowd, McShane nodded over the bar from a corner and Connor Sammon should have scored after picking Pique's pocket and bearing down on goal only to send his effort wide of the mark.
The second half was initially a more drab affair, with a steady stream of substitutions doing their usual job of breaking up any fluency that had been forged before the break.
Yet it was one of those replacements who stamped his mark on the game just 10 minutes after his introduction, Valencia striker Soldado opening the scoring with a lovely, instinctive volley on the turn from the edge of the box to beat Forde.
It was a goal out of nothing, yet such was Spain's dominance of possession, no less than they deserved.
Soldado, who had come on for David Villa, went close to adding a second after he was sent through on goal by Mata, but substitute Irish keeper Darren Randolph was off his line quickly to narrow his angles and force the Spaniard to shoot wide.
Yet still Ireland looked capable of causing a shock on the break, a feeling that only intensified when James McClean burst through on 81 minutes to force a brilliant save from Iker Casillas, who had been brought on for Victor Valdes.
From the resulting corner St Ledger - and the majority of the crowd at the famous old baseball stadium - thought he had levelled when he poked home but Irish celebrations were cut short by the sight of an offside flag. Simon Cox - who was perhaps lucky still to be on the pitch following an earlier stamp on the ankle of Sergio Busquets - was in an offside position amid the melee.
The Irish felt aggrieved - Stephen Quinn allowed his frustration to boil over as he joined Cox in the book for a tackle from behind - and their indignation was compounded when Chelsea's Mata sealed victory with a neat finish to a lovely move, having been sent through on goal by Santi Cazorla's excellent pass.