Brazilian superstar Neymar mocked mercelissely for a dive, but the controversial VAR system couldn't keep them down as they moved past Costa Rica thanks to two late strikes.
The second game of the night saw Nigeria get the better of Iceland with an impressive display. It also means Group D will now go down to the wire.
VAR controversy can't deny Brazil
The official time for Neymar's goal – Brazil's second – was 96min 49sec: a suitably melodramatic end to a whole box set of moaning, poor control, diving, brilliant tricks and crying after the final whistle. A game that was really about the tournament favourites finding their feet in Russia will be remembered for Neymar's epic vanity.
Philippe Coutinho was Brazil's best player by a wide margin in a win over Costa Rica that saved Tite's side from sliding into Argentina territory.
Coutinho scored Brazil's breakthrough stoppage-time goal – a strike so precious that Tite fell over himself while running to rejoice. "I pulled a muscle. I'm limping after the celebrations," he said.
But Coutinho will not take top billing in reports. Instead, Brazil's players conspired in Neymar's need to be front, centre and back in dispatches. Secretly they must think him a terrible thespian, but go along with it because it creates emotional momentum, or perhaps allows them to go about their own work in peace. Whatever: this victory may have been the start of Brazil's march to the title.
Neymar's backwards-fall, though, after Giancarlo Gonzalez had touched his chest, was lamentable. Without video technology, and the referee's willingness to review and overturn his decision to award a penalty against Costa Rica, Brazil's win would have been overshadowed by a deception scandal.
Other notable features of Neymar's day were him being booked for throwing the ball down, dropping to his knees after his goal (a tap-in) and being cuddled by his team-mates at the end, as if he had been through some personal trauma. Not forgetting his glorious double heel-flick over Costa Rica's Yeltsin Tejeda – revenge for the rough treatment the claimed to have endured.
In a nutshell, Neymar is working his way back from injury and spent most of this match searching for his usual touch and accuracy. He spent much of the rest of it on the floor. Fouled 10 times by Switzerland in the opening fixture, he again ran up against strong tackling by Costa Rica. Or, so he wanted us to believe, as he pursued the referee, Bjorn Kuipers, at half-time to enumerate the crimes committed against him.
Coutinho was content to go along with the script. "We know he [Neymar] had a difficult injury and went through a very hard patch," the former Liverpool midfielder said. "His joy of being back on the pitch is contagious. Everyone is so happy him being back and scoring.
"The most important was not giving up till the last minute, which the professor [coach] always emphasises, being mentally strong. We know the responsibility is huge. We fought till the end."
Tite agreed. "If it takes 97 minutes to decide the game, that's the mental focus required," he said. He called the second half "beautiful," adding: "At half-time, I was joking 'look at the old man here, 57 [years old]'. Pass the ball."
Tite has gambled his credibility on Neymar's comeback from a foot injury, but will feel vindicated by this outcome. There was an ominous gelling of Brazil's talents in the last half-hour.
"You can't put all the responsibility on one player," Tite said. "He was out 3½ months and he played the full match [as he did against Switzerland]. He's a human being. He needs some time to resume his high standard but, before he does that, there is a team which has to be strong and not dependent on him. Will he reach his best? Of course, he will reach his best."
Brazil's manager was not disputing the video-assistant-referee review: "I watched the play. If I was the referee I would not go back, but I respect that because it's subject to interpretation.
"We don't need referees to win the game, we just want it to be fair. To me it was a penalty. But we don't want any help. We don't need any help, the players don't need help, I don't want help. We want to be more competent."
Brazil are now unbeaten in 13 games and have conceded only three times in that run. Neymar has scored 56 goals in 87 international appearances and contributed 10 goals and eight assists in his past 17 outings – hence Tite's loyalty.
A gripe around this World Cup has been that no outstanding team has emerged. Brazil have plenty of scope for improvement now that a late double-hit has calmed their nerves. Their ability to summon Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa from the bench confirmed the depth of their arsenal. And who, at Manchester City, would believe Fernandinho, the Premier League's best holding midfielder, is unable to claim a starting spot ahead of Paulinho and Casemiro?
But Neymar's place is more secure than music is in the Brazilian public's heart. Costa Rica, of course, denied any ill-intent. Oscar Ramirez, their coach, said: "We know he had problems with an injury but we never tried to hurt him. We tried to stop him fairly."
Tears flowed, beside the Gulf of Finland, as Neymar poured his feelings out in the centre circle.
Tite said: "I didn't see this, but one thing I can tell you – the joy, satisfaction and pride in representing Brazil is a lot. He has the joy, the pressure and the courage to show it. Everybody shows it in different ways."
Neymar shows it in every way. He never used to be like this, but fame changes people. It can them into drama addicts.
'Goal of the Tournament' seals win
A dour first half from Nigeria saw them go without a shot on goal despite their dominance in possession.
Iceland had the better of the opportunities in the opening 45 minutes but the second half was a different story.
Nigeria came out aggressive and their pace proved too much for Iceland to handle as they secured the 2-0 victory.
Ahmed Musa broke the deadlock after 49 minutes with an early contender for goal of the tournament.
A quick breakaway saw Victor Moses whip the ball into the box where Musa left fans speechless at his miraculous display.
Sticking his right boot into the air, Musa's remarkable first touch saw him bring the ball straight down where he quickly readjusted his stance and rocketed the ball into the back of the net.
The goal made Musa the first Nigerian player to score in two different FIFA World Cup's, but he wasn't done there.
Iceland were caught flat footed by a long ball from the back and Musa set off towards goal.
His blistering pace saw him torch defender Kári Árnason and then cut inside before evading goalkeeper Hannes Halldórsson and slotting home his second goal.
As the clock began to tick down and the pressure amplified, Iceland earned a penalty thanks to the controversial VAR.
Nigeria failed to clear the ball from their box and as the ball was about to go out, a lazy tackle from behind was reviewed.
After initially not awarding the penalty the referee decided to take a second look and after closer inspection, pointed to the spot and handed Iceland a golden opportunity.
Unfortunately Gylfi Sigurdsson made a meal of the chance as he decided to go off a short runaway and watched on as the ball soared high over the crossbar.
The win vaults Nigeria into second place in Group D and with only one game remaining in the group stages, the final place in the group is still up for grabs.
Croatia have secured their place in the knockout stages with back-to-back wins, but chaos reigns among the remaining three sides.
Nigeria sit on three points while Iceland and Argentina are deadlocked on one point.
Spirits in Argentina would have picked up following Nigeria's win over Iceland as it now gives them a greater chance of avoiding early elimination.