The hosts shrugged off what was an unspiring first-half display by stunning their Russian counterparts by scoring twice in quick succession shortly after the interval.
First, Donati finished off a swift counter-attack by slamming the ball beyond Yuri Lodygin, before Papadopoulos doubled the advantage with a header shortly after.
Below, relive all of the drama in Sports Mole's live text commentary.
6.47pmGood evening ladies and gentlemen and thanks for joining our live text commentary of Bayer Leverkusen's Champions League clash with Zenit St Petersburg at the BayArena. There were an incredible 40 goals spread across eight matches last night. I've gone and done the maths, and that equates to five goals per game! Will see similar firework tonight? Probably not, but we can hope.
6.50pmAnyway, let's have a look at tonight's clash then shall we? It is first meets third on gameweek three as Zenit look to maintain their unbeaten start to Group C and boost their prospect of reaching the last 16. They can't seal their place in the knockouts tonight, but victory would see them move four points clear of Bayer Leverkusen in third ahead of the final three group-stage games.
6.53pmAndre Villas-Boas's side might smell blood tonight, too. They're up against a team that let a three-goal lead slip on Saturday in a result that exposed Leverkusen's defensive and concentration frailties. Ominously for the Germans, Zenit are a team that have been averaging a little less than three goals per game this season. Yep, three points is definitely up for grabs for Villas-Boas and company.
6.56pmOverall things are looking up for Zenit; they're top of the Russian Premier League - and unbeaten - after winning eight of their opening 10 outings, scoring 28 goals along the way but back-to-back draws have slowed their momentum in recent weeks. Still, they look a rising force under Villas-Boas who, after failed spells with Chelsea and Spurs, needs success to kick-start a managerial career that promised so much once upon a time.
6.59pmWho is the Portuguese up against tonight? Roger Schmidt, whose Leverkusen team has won plenty of plaudits for their high-energy pressing in the final third this season. Zenit's back four has to be cool as ice this evening because the hosts will try to force errors and, with a striker of Stefan Kiessling's calibre up there, those mistakes will be punished.
7.01pmWe will take a closer look at Kiessling a little later on, but for now let's see if he's in the first XI as team news from the BayArena in imminent! Stay tuned for this.
7.08pmOkay, let's start with Bayer Leverkusen and I can tell you that Bernd Leno - no relation to Jay - starts between the sticks, with Guilio Donati, Omer Toprak, Emir Spahic and Wendell ahead of him in defence. Lars Bender and Stefan Reinartz line up in midfield, while a three-pronged attack of Hueng-Min Son, Karim Bellarabi and Stefan Kiessling look to provide that pressing game that Schmidt loves.
7.11pmOn to Zenit now and we've got plenty of their big-name players available here. Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia form a formidable midfield two, allowing attacking quantities Danny, Hulk and Viktor Fayzulin to get forward and support lone striker Solomon Rondon. Ezequiel Garay is the stand-out name in defence, while Yuri Lodygin starts in goal as expected.
7.14pmWhat do we make of both teams then? Both look decent, but Zenit look the stronger of the two for me. With four goals, Kiessling is Leverkusen's most prolific scorer in the Champions League, whereas the visitors have tried-and-tested European class in every area of the field. Hulk, in particular, has 13 Champions League goals to his name.
7.17pmOne to watch: Let's have a closer look at Hulk. He has often looked more like David Banner than his monsterous alter ego, but with seven goals for Zenit this season - one in this competition - the Brazilian looks to be recapturing the blistering form that saw him rise to prominence under Villas-Boas during their time together at Porto. Hulk will play a big role if Zenit leave the BayArena with a result. He looked a nuisance against Benfica on matchday one and more of the same is expected tonight!
7.20pmWho does Villas-Boas need a big performance from then? Perhaps Salomon Rondon, who is slightly fortuitous to retain his place in his coach's Champions League team after ineffective displays against Benfica and AS Monaco. The striker has to vindicate Villas-Boas's decision sooner or later, though. Still, he won't have caused the Leverkusen defence a sleepless night.
7.23pmReferee Watch: Before we have a look at the Germans' danger men, let's see who takes charge of this one. That would be Bjorn Kuipers of the Netherlands, who refereeed Real Madrid's extra-time win over Atletico in last season's final. He's 41 and he's been officating football matches since the age of 17; a good 24 years experience there. Let's hope he brought his cards because there have been 11 yellows and one red in Bayer and Zenit's opening two Group C outings thus far.
7.26pmDanger Man: Right, as promised, let's have a look at Kiessling. The 30-year-old has netted over 70 times in his last three season's with the Germans, but despite only having found the net once in seven Bundesliga outings so far, Zenit can ill afford to discount the hitman.
7.28pmHe won the Golden Boot in a division that boasted the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Mandzukic and Arjen Robben a few seasons back. Form is temporary and class is permanent as the old adage goes, and the visitors would be wise to keep that in mind. Between him and Hueng-Min Son, Bayer Leverkusen have plenty of ways to hurt Zenit tonight.
7.30pmSon struck twice in the opening 10 minutes against Stuttgart on Saturday to bring his total for the season to seven in all competitions. Big things are expected of the 22-year-old South Korean, who will look to enhance his reputation further tonight. He's already got one Champions League goal this season. He is another one who knows precisely where the goal is.
7.35pmBench Watch: And, speaking of knowing where the goal, Bayer Leverkusen have the luxury of calling on Josip Drmic if they need him. The 22-year-old netted 17 Bundesliga goals for Nuremburg last season and, like Son, will be itching to enhance his own burgeoning reputation. However, Zenit can call on the experience of Aleksander Kerzhakov or Andriy Arshavin if necessary.
7.38pmRight, we're eight minutes away now so let's lodge a pre-match prediction, shall we? Why not. 2-1 Zenit. AVB's side started really well against Benfica on gameweek one, and the big question will Bayer be able to match that intensity. Hulk and Salomon on the scoresheet. Let's go!
7.41pmThe players line up in the tunnel, exchange handshakes and do that pretend to like each other thing that footballers do before kickoff. Hulk holds up a 'say no to racism' pennant that is particularly pertinent tonight, after Luiz Adriano claimed to have been racially abused by BATE Borisov fans last night. Shame.
7.44pmRight, kickoff is imminent now, my friends. I fancy a decent game here. Plenty of goals in these sides as we've discussed.
0 minKickoff: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we are officially off in Leverkusen. Zenit, playing from right to left, get us underway at the BayArena.
2 minShot! Lars Bender has the honour of registering the game's first shot, but it's a shocker and it trickles well wide of Zenit's goal.
4 minReally good player from Karim Bellarabi, weaving in and out of a few challenges but plays a one-two off Son, who is offside. He has looked bright, the German.
5 minSave! Excellent work from Leverkusen, as left-back Wendell gets in behind Anyukov and toe-pokes a shot at Lodygin, who tips out for a corner. Anyukov was beaten far too easily there. The corner comes to nothing, however.
6 minBooking! I told you this one could be feisty, didn't I! Six minutes on the clock and Viktor Fayzulin is booked for a foul on Bender.
8 minWendell has looked lively so far, and the left-back has just pulled off an excellent tackle on Hulk, who looked to gallop down the right hand flank. Superb defending.
9 minFantastic attacking play from Wendell this time, galloping away from compatriot Hulk and worked himself into a good position, but Javi Garcia produces one of those 'thou shall not pass' challenges. Good work from the Spaniard.
11 minShot! This is all Leverkusen as Hakan Calhanoglu launches an ambitious effort at goal, which flies well wide. Still, promising overall.
13 minIt's not clicking for Zenit so far. AVB's side can barely string a pass together. Just as a type that, Rondon goes in for a 50-50 challenge with goalkeeper Leno, but the German keeper wins it thankfully. There was a touch of the Manuel Neuers about Leno then.
15 minBooking: Oh dear. Hulk talks himself into a yellow card. Stupid by the Brazilian, who protested Javi Garcia's innocence after a really bad tackle on Wendell. Hulk might have been highlighting Wendell's theatrics.
17 minUpdate: It turns out Javi Garcia was indeed booked for that challenge on Wendell. So, we're 17 minutes in and Zenit already have to be careful after picking up three bookings already.
19 minSome poor bloke is going to have a sore back in the morning. Hulk lined up a free kick from range, thumping it but it hit the wall and came off somebody's back. I don't fancy being on the end of that strike.
21 minWe're just past the 20-minute mark now and Leverkusen looking very comfortable. Zenit haven't started at all. Wendell has been the player of the first half and has just won his team's second corner.
24 minZenit are about to whip in a free kick now after Criscito went down under a challenge from Bender, but it came to nothing and Bayer comfortably clear their lines.
27 minEvery time Zenit get the ball they search for Hulk who, at the moment, is firmly in the pocket of left-back Wendell. They need a different approach. Plenty of possession for the Russian outfit but little to no chances to speak of.
29 minAnother decent set-piece chance for Zenit now after Danny was fouled by Spahic....
30 minAnd it's another really poor delivery by the playmaker, who floats a free kick in before watching it thumped away by Spahic, who committed the initial foul. Poor stuff.
32 minExcellent football from Bayer Leverkusen, who almost one-touch pass their way through on goal but Garay hoofs away the final pass. Superb from Bayer's attackers there.
34 minDanny is well and truly having a shocker. The Zenit skipper fails to trap a routine pass, and it rolls under his foot Peter Enckelman style and out for a goal kick. 34 minutes in and Zenit looking particularly poor thus far. No clear-cut chances from either team yet, however.
36 minIt's 77-30 to Bayer Leverkusen in the passing stakes, which tells its own story. Nine minutes left until the break and I'd be shocked if we don't go in 0-0 at half-time.
39 minChance! It's taken around 39 minutes but we've had our first real chance, and it's Hakan Calhanoglu, who leaps highest to reach a Bender cross but his header is saved well by Lodygin. Still, the Turk should've scored then.
42 minGood recovery tackle by Spahic prevents Hulk from sprinting down that right-hand side. The Brazilian had got the better of Wendell for the first time, but the Bosnian was on hand to stop the attack. Good tackle.
44 minBellarabi goes down injured after taking a knee in the backside from Criscito. It looked painful, but he's back on his feet now. Around a minute left in this half and that should be that.
8.32pmYep, that's that. The Dutch referee plays around six seconds of added time and says enough is enough. I don't blame him after what was a largely forgettable half of football. Bayer Leverkusen by far the better side, but they have precious little to show for it.
8.35pmVery, very, very little to write home about for Zenit, who are being taught a lesson of sorts in the defending stakes. Wendell has barely given Hulk a touch, and being a physically inferior player, that takes some doing. He's been superb the Brazilian left-back.
8.39pmThe best and only chance really fell to Calhanoglu, who really should have planted his header past Lodygin but the keeper got down well to save it.
8.43pmWhat's going on elsewhere in the Champions League then? Well, in Group C, Monaco are drawing 0-0 with Benfica. Borussia Dortmund are thumping Galatasaray 3-0 at the break, while reigning champions Real Madrid are also dishing out a beating to Liverpool at Anfield, where Carlo Ancelotti's side also lead 3-0. It's goalless in five games in total. Something tells me we're not going to see 40 goals like last night.
45 minRestart! Aaaaaaaand we're back. Bayer Leverkusen gets us back underway at the BayArena. Let's hope there's a little more goal-mouth action to report on, eh?
48 minExcellent defending from Nicolas Lombaerts, who stretches to poke Son's teasing cross out for a corner. Kiessling was lurking with intent in the middle of the box so that was massive.
51 minSuperb attacking play again from Wendell, who has been outstanding. He wins Bayer another corner, which is comfortably dealt with by Zenit. Delivery from both sides has been poor.
54 minRemember when I said delivery from both sides has been poor? It has reached new lows now, unfortunately. And it's Danny, the prime culprit for this trend, as the Brazilian lofts a free kick into the box - well it's meant to be in the box but it goes straight out for a goal kick without bouncing. So poor.
56 minBooking: Wendell becomes Leverkusen's first booking for a rash challenge that sent Hulk and all 20 stone of him in the air! Bad tackle, but you can't help but be impressed by the left-back's performance.
59 minReally good goal - and the game needed it badly! Bellarabi does well to dispossess Hulk in his own, before Calhanoglu carries the ball forward in a swift counter. The Turk spots right-back Donati galloping forward, picks him out, and the defender fires past Lodygin, who perhaps should have done better. Still, Leverkusen won't care one bit.
62 minAmazing scenes at the BayArena, as Kyriakos Papadopoulos scores with his first touch! The Greek replaced Spahic moments before Calhanoglu whipped a free kick deep into Zenit's box, and Papadopoulos outmuscled Lombaerts to nod past Lodygin. Incredible.
64 minWhat now for Zenit? Can they get back into this? It's looking unlikely. They haven't offered anywhere near enough threat up front to score once let alone twice.
67 minDecent enough response by Zenit, though. The Russian side have grown into it a little bit more and looked slightly more menacing going forward, but it's still a massive ask for them.
69 minZenit fans, to their credit, still sing passionately about their team. There's a group of shirtless fans with Zenit scarves in the air - all male, sadly. Can they inspire their team to what would be an amazing comeback?
72 minWe're into 70-minute mark now and, to be honest, Zenit still struggling to break down a solid Bayer Leverkusen defence. The Germans look quite content to hold this lead and let the Russians come at them.
75 minEzequiel Garay very nearly just scores an own goal after a breakdown in communication sees he and goalkeeper Lodygin coming for the same ball. Garay attempted to head back to his goalkeeper, who was actually further up the field than him but, thankfully, it was a poor header and it went out for a corner.
77 minChance! This is Zenit's best chance and they've wasted it. Anyukov's terrible shot turns out to be a decent pass to Hulk, standing on the edge of the box, and the Brazilian shoots right-footed but drags his effort horribly wide. They probably won't fashion a better chance to get back into this.
78 minRed card! Zenit given a glimmer of hope now after Wendell is issued with a second booking for cynically handling the ball. Shame, because he had been excellent all night but a moment of stupidity has jeopardised his team's chances of victory here.
81 minRight, we're into the 80-minute mark and if Zenit plan on making a comeback then they need to do it now. However, the ball continues to be knocked around by Leverkusen defenders without much opposition from Hulk and his teammates.
84 minSubstitution: Kari Bellarabi makes way for Julian Brandt for the final six minutes of normal time.
87 minHulk goes to ground for the 111th time, but referee is having none of it this time and Bayer launch a counter, but Brandt's through ball is too strong for the tiring Son. Whatever happens, really disappointing from the visitors.
90+1 minGood lord the home fans are baying for blood, and Dutch blood in particular after the Dutch referee turned down appeals for a penalty after Donati went down in the area.
90 + 3 minShot! Where has Hulk been for 93 minutes? The Brazilian does absolutely brilliantly to ride a few challenges before firing at goal, but his fierce shot is straight at Leno.
9.37pmFull time: Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Zenit St Petersburg
9.38pmWell, Leverkusen got their in the end folks thanks to second-half goals from Donati and Papadopoulos. That's all we've got time for tonight but thanks for joining our live text commentary, and stay tuned for analysis and player ratings. Cheers folks!