Gareth Bale scored on his Real Madrid debut in an absorbing clash with Villarreal at the Estadio El Madrigal.
The Welshman tapped in a 38th-minute equaliser inside the six-yard box from Dani Carvajal's cross to give his new team a belated foothold in the game.
Real's defence looked like it was more in need of £86 million worth of repair than their strikeforce. Reliable goalkeeper Diego López made two excellent stops before Cani scooped a strike past him on 20 minutes to give Villarreal a deserved lead.
WIth Bale bashful and Cristiano Ronaldo riled, the Yellow Submarine fired more torpedoes. López was forced to make a tremendous double-save from Jonathan Pereira to keep the scoreline down before Madrid showed sparks of a recovery.
Captain Sergio Ramos' thumping header was repelled by Sergio Asenjo and Ronaldo badly mistimed a free header from Ramos' raking 40-yard pass moments later.
Starting on the right, Bale was on the periphery until he switched flanks with Ronaldo. With the Portuguese veering inside, Luka Modrić played in Carvajal, who made his dash through the channel and Bale pounced for an undeserved leveller.
Now more extroverted in his play, Bale unleashed a rasping 25-yard drive three minutes after the pause which Asenjo tipped over as Madrid sought to seize the initiative.
Despite the auspicious restart it was Villarreal who should have taken the lead when Costa missed an open goal from Pereira's assist amid more calamitous Madrid defending.
Bale finally flexed his leg muscles with a sprint down the right-hand side on the hour mark but grimaced after he collided into the advertising hoardings. Theatrically timed, it was his final act.
Carlo Ancelotti immediately withdrew the world's most expensive player and Asier Illarramendi for Angel di María and Sami Khedira and less than two minutes later Ronaldo had his say.
It was an ugly goal: a parry, a block and a ricochet, but it was Ronaldo's fourth in a week and Villarreal's profligacy had inevitably proven critical.
Another ex-Tottenham player was about to leave his mark on a terrific contest, though, and it wasn't Luka Modrić.
Giovani dos Santos, a teammate of Bale's at White Hart Lane, made it 2-2 when López could only palm Cani's strike into the Mexican's path to galvanise the hosts.
One of Barcelona's La Masia graduates, Dos Santos was farmed out on loan to Ipswich Town by Harry Redknapp in 2009 but voted second only to Thomas Müller for the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament award at the 2010 World Cup. Bale was another talent Redknapp came close to squandering.
Former Villarreal stopper López superbly denied the enterprising Cani's long-range effort and Ronaldo tested Asenjo in the final 10 minutes as the chaos continued but the scoring stopped.
What was a satisfactory night for Bale was an unsatisfactory one for Madrid. Barcelona's stoppage-time winner against Sevilla maintained their 100% record and they now hold a two-point advantage over their adversaries.
Bale took 25 attempts to play in a league win with Tottenham and while it won't take anywhere near that long with Madrid, the higher standards have already been set.