Two goals in four minutes eventually sparked an opening round Whanganui derby to life as Big Orange Wanganui City showed they belong in Federation League this year.
Rivals GJ Gardner Homes Wanganui Athletic were 3-0 up and cruising just after halftime but were given a fright midway through the second spell by the league's new boys.
Athletic's experience at this level won out in the end as they regained their three-goal cushion with two injury-time goals to win 5-2 at Wembley Park on Saturday.
The two sides met in the closing games of last season, a 2-0 win to Athletic in the Charity Cup final, when City had just finished runners up in the lower Horizons Premiership.
Up a league, City quickly learned they won't be bullying teams with double-digit margins like they did last year.
There was some typically early-season scratchy play from both sides early on but a 13th-minute penalty broke the deadlock.
Athletic's Quinn Mailman was brought down at the byline as he was searching for support with Ryan Holden stepping up to easily slot the penalty.
The goal settled Athletic who began to put together a few longer spells on possession.
Jordan Joblin-Hall showed his return from Palmerston North Marist to the middle of the City set-up will be valuable this year.
City looked brightest on the back of his distribution, notably slicing the Athletic defence to set target man Anthony Bell free before Peter Czerwonka gave up a yellow card to bring him down.
Athletic were forced into a first-half substitution when Josh Parker came off after aggravating a hamstring niggle.
A heavy shower passed over Wembley Park as halftime approached and may have aided Athletic in doubling their lead.
Former City player James Satherley fired the ball into the box which slipped off a City player into goal to put Athletic 2-0 up.
While City looked the more threatening side after the break as play opened up a bit Athletic looked to have put the game to bed at 3-0 when Joshua Smith, back from the now defunct Team Taranaki, received the ball in the box to neatly tuck past Glenn Graham in the 59th minute.
But City fought and seven minutes later had reduced the margin to one with two quick goals.
The first came through a Kyle Graham-Luke free-kick which his coach Kelvin Francis described as "absolute quality".
Well outside the box, Graham-Luke's shot curled and dipped untouched on its way into the top right corner of the net.
Minutes later Bell rounded Athletic Keeper Matthew Calvert to double his side's tally.
City came close to an equaliser when Graham-Luke almost repeated his earlier heroics, this time the ball grazing the top of the net.
An equaliser never came and Athletic punished City with two at the death.
Jake Simcox rose to meet a cross for a tidy headed goal in the 91st minute before Quinn Mailman finished the job two minutes later.
Athletic coach Jason King admitted "a couple of nervous moments as they pegged a couple back".
"[But] the team all pitched in. Some carrying niggles and other stuff but they pushed on and did the job.
"Both sides played some good football out there. It was a great game, especially for the first of the season.
King has his sights on a higher finish than last season and his side will get a big test next weekend when they travel to take on last year's runners up New Plymouth Rangers.
"There's a long way to go," King said.
"We've got a lot more work to do. I mean, everyone underestimated us last year so we've just got to work harder and harder and harder this year."
City's Francis, while disappointed with the loss, was pleased his side footed it.
"I think that we've proven to ourselves that we're more than capable," he said.
"Really proud of the boys, they played some good football today and back in the higher level showed that we're going to be able to compete.
"I mean, these guys finished third last year and you can't take that away from them. They played good football in patches as well."
Francis was particularly impressed with City's second half.
"When we did put pressure on them in the second half they coughed the ball up and we scored two goals. It's just testament to the boys' hard work in the second half," he said.
"We'll go again next week and take it from here."
City are back at Wembley next week taking on North End.
In other matches, Palmerston North Marist thrashed promoted Hokowhitu FC 7-2, Red Sox Manawatu went down 1-0 to Rangers at home while Massey and North End played out a goalless draw in Palmerston North.