The mercurial Barcelona forward put what appeared to be a laboured performance behind him to slalom past a number of challenges and place a brilliant finish into the corner on 65 minutes.
It brought a disappointing game to life after La Albiceleste had gone ahead courtesy of an unfortunate own goal from Sead Kolasinac on three minutes.
Bosnia were hoping to make a good impression on their finals debut and edged the first half with Izet Hajrovic going close and Senad Lulic forcing a stunning save out of Sergio Romero with a bullet header from a right-wing corner.
However, they struggled to cope with Argentina following Messi's effort and Sergio Aguero fizzed just wide of the upright before substitute Vedad Ibisevic made it interesting with six minutes to go when he squeezed a shot under Romero - a historical goal for Bosnia as it was their first at a major tournament.
PRE-MATCH: No Higuain, but Messi and Aguero lead the line. In the absence of Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina deploy a 5-3-2 formation with Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero forging the attack. Bosnia have erred on the side of caution with Edin Dzeko featuring as a lone front man in a 4-2-3-1 system.
3' - GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Bosnia Herzegovina. So unlucky! Messi's free kick from the left is flicked on by Marcos Rojo and deflects in off an unwitting Sead Kolasinac.
13' - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA CHANCE! Izet Hajrovic beats the offside trap to control a clipped pass into the area but can't apply the finish. Good save by the keeper.
40' - BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA CHANCE! Great save! A corner from the right is met by a bullet header by Lulic who can only watch on in dismay as Romero dives to his left to tip it around the post.
65' - GOAL! Argentina 2-0 Bosnia Herzegovina. It's trademark Messi as he turns in the midfield and exchanges a one-two with Higuain before side-stepping another challenge and placing a superb effort into the corner via the post.
84' - GOAL! Argentina 2-1 Bosnia Herzegovina. Bosnia are back in it! Ibisevic races onto an exquisite through ball and just about squeezes it under Romero. Can they pull off the comeback?
90' - ARGENTINA CHANCE. Messi breaks on the right of the area but can only flash his shot high into the near-post side netting. That would have sealed it.
TALKING POINT: Will that goal ignite Messi's tournament? The Barcelona forward had a poor season by his own incredible standards and many felt he could have been saving himself for this World Cup on South American soil. The diminutive attacker was struggling to produce his best for the majority of the game, but came good with that sensational solo goal and can also claim an assist for his troubles. It's early days, but it's a good start and should breathe confidence into future displays.
There have already been three own goals in the 2014 World Cup, one more than there was in the entire 2010 tournament.
Sead Kolasinac's own goal was the fastest goal scored in this World Cup, after just 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
Bosnia-Herzegovina are the second debutant whose first goal conceded at a WC was an own goal, after Australia in 1974.
Vedad Ibisevic scored Bosnia's first ever goal at a World Cup finals.
Lionel Messi had played 623 minutes of World Cup football since notching his only other WC goal against Serbia in 2006.
Messi becomes the second Argentine to score successive WC goals eight years apart following Diego Maradona (1986 and 1994).
The Barcelona forward scored with his first shot on target at this year's World Cup.
Only Javier Mascherano (102) attempted more passes than Lionel Messi in the match.
(Stats courtesy of Opta)
MAN OF THE MATCH
Lionel Messi (Argentina): It wasn't exactly vintage Argentina but they did the job and it was largely down to the number 10. A wonderful individual goal and a hand in the opener were key moments in a game that never truly hit the heights of the tournament's previous matches.
PLAYER RATINGS -
ARGENTINA: Romero 7, Garay 6, Campagnaro 6, Zabaleta 6, Mascherano 7, Rojo 7, F. Fernandez 6, Rodriguez 6, Di Maria 7, Messi 8, Aguero 7. Subs: Biglia n/a, Gago 6, Higuain 7.
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Begovic 6, Bicakcic 6, Spahic 6, Kolasinac 5, Besic 6, Pjanic 6, Misimovic 7, Mujdza 6, Lulic 7, Hajrovic 6, Dzeko 6. Subs: Medjunjanin 6, Visca 6, Ibisevic 7.
MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Sergio Aguero
- Vedad Ibisevic