Lionel Messi's 350th La Liga goal proved elusive as he hit the woodwork three times in Barcelona's 2-0 victory over Real Betis on an emotional night in Catalonia.
The 30-year-old hit the post before the break and then twice afterwards with his latest landmark remaining frustratingly beyond his grasp.
However, an evening on which the club paid tribute to the victims of last week's terrorist attack in the city before kickoff ended in satisfactory fashion for the Catalan giants with Alin Tosca's own goal and a second from Sergi Roberto handing new manager Ernesto Valverde victory in his first league game at the helm.
That it was achieved without the departed Neymar and injured duo Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez -- and without Messi finding the back of the net -- may be a source of encouragement after a difficult start to the campaign.
Stung by their 5-1 aggregate Spanish Super Cup defeat by arch-rivals Real Madrid, Barca, whose players wore the word "Barcelona" on the backs of their shirts rather than their own names, might have taken the lead with less than three minutes gone when Gerard Deulofeu stabbed a shot wide from close range after being picked out by Roberto.
Messi whipped a left-foot effort wide seconds later with the visitors firmly on the back foot, and then curled a 14th-minute free kick onto the roof of the net with goalkeeper Antonio Adan scrambling desperately in a vain bid to reach it.
Messi went even closer with a swerving 25th-minute shot and was then denied by the post 10 minutes later with his shot having comprehensively beaten Adan.
However, Barca took the lead within seconds when defender Tosca turned Deulofeu's cross into his own net, and it was 2-0 six minutes before the break.
Javier Mascherano's superbly-timed challenge on Leon Limones sparked a lightning break which ended in emphatic style when Roberto steered Deulofeu's cross into the net.
Messi went agonisingly close once again on the hour when he ended a scintillating run with a curling left-foot shot which once again clipped the foot of the post with Adan helpless.
Barca were rampant, but their Argentinian superstar's luck had for once deserted him with the woodwork coming to Betis' rescue for a third time with nine minutes remaining, this time repelling his blistering rising drive.
It appeared that Messi's moment might finally have arrived deep into stoppage time as he carved his way through the mesmerised Betis defence, but he was eventually hustled out of play before he could do further damage.