Sergio Ramos' late penalty secured Real Madrid their first win of the 2020-21 La Liga season as Los Blancos won 3-2 at 10-man Real Betis, for whom Barcelona-owned Emerson endured something of a nightmare.
Zinedine Zidane's men began their title defence with an underwhelming 0-0 stalemate with Real Sociedad, and while they were only marginally better in Seville, they just about made the most of their numerical advantage.
Madrid initially looked good value for their lead when Federico Valverde prodded them in front, but Betis showed excellent resilience to turn it around.
Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho did the damage in a three-minute salvo, the latter netting in successive games having not scored in his first 57 outings for the club.
Things began to look up for Madrid early in the second half when Emerson found his own net before then getting sent off, and Los Blancos completed the win thanks to Ramos' spot-kick eight minutes from time.
An action-packed opening gave encouragement to both sides, as Madrid had a Karim Benzema goal disallowed for offside, before Thibaut Courtois thwarted Antonio Sanabria.
There was no denying Madrid in the 14th minute when Valverde turned in Benzema's cross to make it 1-0, though Ramos inexplicably smashed wide just seven yards out a few moments later.
Betis responded well and netted twice in quick succession to turn the game on its head – Mandi first met Sergio Canales' delivery with a towering header, before Carvalho charged on to Nabil Fekir's pass and drilled past Courtois with 37 minutes on the clock.
An apparent hamstring injury to Toni Kroos late in the first half led to Luka Modric's introduction, and that was followed by Isco replacing Martin Odegaard at the interval.
It seemed to aid the fluency of Madrid, who restored parity when Emerson nudged Dani Carvajal's cross past his own goalkeeper just after the restart.
Emerson's day then went from bad to worse as he was sent off for tripping Luka Jovic when through on goal.
Madrid eventually made the most of the extra man 15 minutes later, as Marc Bartra handled the ball while tussling with Borja Mayoral – Jovic's replacement – and Ramos' subsequent Panenka sealed the points.
What does it mean? Madrid unconvincing but off the mark
This was anything but straightforward and convincing for the champions, who looked devoid of craft for long periods and a little shaky at the back.
Betis had more shots (15 to 11) and efforts on target (five to four) than Madrid, who struggled to dominate as they might have expected, only just edging possession 54 per cent to 46.
They got the job done in the end, but it was by no means impressive.
Canales shows his class
In an alternate universe, one where his Madrid career was not cruelly ruined by injuries, Canales would have been starring for Zidane's side in this fixture.
While professional football has not quite gone as many expected for him, he continues to show his quality for Betis and he was a standout here, producing a match-high four key passes, including that sumptuous assist for Mandi.
Only Ramos and Casemiro touched the ball more than him, while all 53 of his completed passes were in the opposition half, a tally that was 19 higher than anyone else on the pitch.
Jovic fails to take his chance
It is difficult to see Jovic prolonging his Madrid career on the basis of this performance. He touched the ball just 14 times during his 72 minutes on the pitch, the fewest of all Los Blancos players bar late sub Mayoral.
Jovic had zero shots and created zero chances. His only major involvement was winning the foul that led to Emerson's dismissal, but one could argue that he should have found the net before the Brazilian could even get to him.
Madrid look to make it two straight wins when they return home on Thursday (AEST) as they face Real Valladolid, while Betis go to Getafe a day earlier.