Oseltamivir-resistant H1N1 influenza viruses carrying the H275Y neuraminidase mutation predominated worldwide during the 2007-2009 seasons. Although several neuraminidase substitutions were found to be necessary to counteract the adverse effects of H275Y, the order and impact of evolutionary events involved remain elusive. Here we reconstruct H1N1 neuraminidase phylogeny during 1999-2009, estimate the timing and order of crucial amino acid changes and evaluate their impact on the biological outcome of the H275Y mutation. Of the 12 neuraminidase substitutions that occurred during 1999-2009, 5 (chronologically, V234M, R222Q, K329E, D344N, H275Y and D354G) are necessary for maintaining full neuraminidase function in the presence of the H275Y mutation by altering protein accumulation or enzyme affinity/activity. The sequential emergence and cumulative effects of these mutations clearly illustrate a role for epistasis in shaping the emergence and subsequent evolution of a drug-resistant virus population, which can be useful in understanding emergence of novel viral phenotypes of influenza.