Newcastle United have opened a prayer room at their training ground. Despite being used primarily by the squad's seven Muslim players it is designed for multi-faith use and might be unusually full during the coming days.
In possession of a valuable away goal, Alan Pardew's side still have a slender chance of turning this Europa League quarter-final round but they could probably do with some sort of divine assistance next Thursday if the extremely accomplished Portuguese league leaders are to be overcome in the second leg on Tyneside.
On a night when Papiss Cissé shone and was unlucky not to complete a hat-trick after giving Newcastle an early lead, a couple of second-half defensive misjudgments permitted an initially startled Benfica to reassert themselves.
"A disappointing result which didn't reflect our performance but we made two bad mistakes," said Pardew. "We were twice denied by the woodwork and we showed we can cause Benfica problems, though. They're a good side, no doubt about that, but anything is possible."
Travelling Newcastle fans had barely stopped admiring the magnificent eagle which circles the stands before every home game here when Cissé very nearly caught Jorge Jesus's defence cold.
Played in by Yohan Cabaye in the second minute, the Senegal striker seemed taken back to find himself with only Artur to beat and, perhaps sensing such momentary hesitancy, the goalkeeper saved his ensuing shot comfortably.
Soon it was Tim Krul's turn to be tested. Back in Newcastle's goal after a lengthy, ankle injury, the Netherlands goalkeeper was slightly wrong-footed by Gaitán's dipping, 25-yard shot and almost parried it into the path of Benfica's star striker, Oscar Cardoza. Krul somehow regathered the ball just before Cardoza could connect with it.
With Rodrigo, particularly, starting to move elusively and dangerously between the black and white lines , it seemed Jesus's side would take control but Newcastle possess the pace to damage opponents on the break these days and they duly proved it.
Danny Simpson, back in favour at right back as Mathieu Debuchy was ineligible, sent a cute ball whizzing down the right. Pouncing on it, Moussa Sissoko – Newcastle's principal counter-attacking weapon – accelerated onwards before slamming in a low, first-time cross. From around six yards out Cissé this time shot unerringly beyond Artur. "Papiss was outstanding," said Pardew. "He was a threat all night."
Newcastle were anxious to secure an away goal and, after only 11 minutes, they had one. There might swiftly have been another, too, had Artur not brilliantly pushed another, albeit deflected, Cissé shot on to an upright following a Jonas Guttierez cross.
Temporarily confounded by Newcastle's power on the counter and blitz-like crossing ability, Benfica drew a collective breath and raised their game.
When Krul, hardly enjoying a gentle return to arms, could only parry a viciously swerving Cardoza shot the ball fell to Rodrigo who slipped a shot underneath the Dutchman. Krul, generally excellent – especially when making a fine double save from Gomez and then John – could point a finger at his defence for fleetingly losing concentration with Cardoza lurking.
Pardew's players were learning fast that needless concessions of possession were high risk. One such lapse prompted a wonderful Benfica passing sequence which ended in the diving Krul denying Gaitán after slick work from Rodgrio and Cardoza.
Suddenly Jesus's side were putting their previously intimidating Geordie guests firmly in their place. Monopolising the ball to an almost impolite degree, they forced Newcastle to defend ever deeper and with increasing desperation.
Commendably defiant, Pardew's players hauled themselves back off the ropes, regained a measure of possession and, briefly, reignited the evening. When Sylvain Marveaux selected a beautifully weighted, defence-splitting pass, Cissé dinked a left-foot shot and watched it bounce, tantalisingly, off a post.
Then, with Krul stranded, Pardew enjoyed a moment of fortune. Changing pace, Rodrigo outstripped Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, crossed and Cardoza dragged his shot wide of an invitingly empty goalmouth.
Visiting luck finally ran out when Davide Santon attempted an unwise back pass to Krul and it was gratefully intercepted by Lima, who rounded Krul before shooting Benfica ahead from a tight angle.
Then Sissoko failed to make a headed clearance from a cross, Steven Taylor subsequently, inadvertently, handled in the area and Cardoza stepped forward to take the penalty. He converted it but saw that attempt disallowed for an encroachment before retaining sufficient poise to have a second go. This time his audacious kick curved imperiously towards the top corner.