Plants are engaged in a continuous co-evolutionary struggle for dominance with their pathogens. The outcomes of these interactions are of particular importance to human activities, as they can have dramatic effects on agricultural systems. The recent convergence of molecular studies of plant immunity and pathogen infection strategies is revealing an integrated picture of the plant-pathogen interaction from the perspective of both organisms. Plants have an amazing capacity to recognize pathogens through strategies involving both conserved and variable pathogen elicitors, and pathogens manipulate the defence response through secretion of virulence effector molecules. These insights suggest novel biotechnological approaches to crop protection.