Sunderland skipper John O’Shea enjoyed a night to savour, helping the Republic of Ireland claim a memorable 1-0 win over Germany in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
And clubmate Steven Fletcher hit one of the best goals of his career as Scotland suffered ultimate disappointment in a 2-2 draw with Poland.
O’Shea was impressive throughout in defence in shutting out the world champions at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, with a Shane Long strike 20 minutes from time securing a fabulous win for Martin O’Neill’s side, who now face a do or die decider in Poland on Sunday for a qualifying spot probably alongside Germany, who need just a point against Georgia to clinch their place despite tonight’s defeat.
A 2-2 draw for Ireland in Poland will take them through, but a 0-0 or 1-1 scoreline will force them into the play-offs.
Ireland boss Martin O’Neill said: “The players put in a fantastic effort. To beat the world champions is a sensational effort.
“We showed bravery and courage. We had to withstand a lot of pressure, which you’d expect, and we did that.
“We have reached the play-offs now (at the very least) and we can go for it on Sunday now.”
At Hampden Park, Scotland came from behind to lead Poland with superb strikes from Matt Ritchie and Fletcher, who curled a magnificent effort into the top corner, but a last-gasp Robert Lewandowski strike secured a 2-2 draw for the Poles.
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan said he could not have asked for more from his players, during tonight’s match or throughout the qualifying campaign.
“We’re disappointed, the coaching staff are disappointed, the fans are disappointed, but imagine being a player,” he said.
“I don’t think I could have asked for any more from my group of lads.
“As far as I’m concerned, they did their best.”
Meanwhile, goals from Steven Davis (2) and Josh Magennis earned Northern Ireland a 3-1 win over Greece to guarantee qualification out of Group F - their first appearance at a major final since the 1986 World Cup.