An under-strength Scotland warmed up for next year's crucial Euro 2020 play-offs by beating Cyprus 2-1 in Nicosia on Saturday.
Ryan Christie opened the scoring after just 12 minutes with a delightful curler, moments after Cyprus thought they had gone ahead - only for Giorgos Efrem's effort to incorrectly be deemed not to have crossed the goal line.
Efrem was not to be deterred, though, drawing the hosts level with a sumptuous first-time volley just two minutes into the second half, before the visitors hit back immediately thanks to John McGinn's fifth goal in his last five games for his country.
Cyprus: Pardo (6), Demetriou (6), Karo (6), Merkis (6), Kousoulos (6), Ioannou (7), Kosti (6), Papoulis (7), Charalambos Kyriakou (6), Charalambos Kyriakou (7), Efrem (8), Sotiriou (6)
Subs: Kastanos (6), Theodorou (6) and Spoljaric (6)
Scotland: Marshall (7), Palmer (6), McKenna (6), Gallagher (6), Taylor (7), Jack (6), McGinn (9), McGregor (6), Forrest (8), Naismith (7), Christie (8)
Subs: Oli McBurnie (6), Oliver Burke (7) and Devlin (6)
Man of the match: John McGinn
As a result, Scotland moved above their opponents into third place in Group I and while they cannot qualify directly for next summer's European championship, they will have a chance to compete at the tournament via the play-offs in March.
How Scotland moved up to third in the table
The Cypriots - who Scotland edged past 2-1 at home in June - were desperately unlucky not to take a sixth-minute lead after Efrem tricked his way past Scott McKenna in a tight space in the box, only for his shot to strike the underside of the bar and bounce to safety off the line.
Without goal-line technology, Austrian referee Harald Lechner waved play on, although replays subsequently suggested the ball had crossed the whole of the line to give the Scots a massive let off.
Steven Naismith captained the side on his 50th appearance for his country, while Declan Gallagher and Ryan Jack both made their international debuts
Steve Clarke's side took advantage of that bit of luck to then take the lead thanks to a brilliant individual strike from Christie, who was afforded too much space down the right, before curling a delicious effort into the top corner of the goal from the edge of the box.
However, Efrem would not be denied, with the former Rangers winger equalising at the start of the second period with a well-struck volley that left David Marshall helpless in the Scotland goal.
Back came Scotland, taking only six minutes to restore their lead as the ever-alert and in-form McGinn cleverly steering Greg Taylor's cross into the bottom corner of the goal.
Thereafter, Clarke's men held on for the three points, although not without a late scare when Fotis Papoulis blazed over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Man of the Match - John McGinn
7 - John McGinn has been involved in seven goals in his last six appearances for Scotland (5 goals, 2 assists), having failed to register a single goal involvement in his first 14 apps for the national side. Ripe.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 16, 2019
The diminutive Aston Villa midfielder was once again at his creative best in the Cypriot capital and there is no doubt Clarke will need his player to be in similar form for their crucial Euro 2020 play-off tie in March.
The 25-year-old was in the right place at the right time to guide home Scotland's winner, the seventh goal he has been involved in for his country in just his last six appearances, including five goals and two assists.
All of which is in stark contrast to the start of McGinn's Scotland career when he failed to be involved in any goal in his first 14 internationals for his county.
What the manager said...
Scotland boss Steve Clarke: "It was important to build on the San Marino victory. We knew coming here would be a difficult game because it was a difficult game at Hampden in June, a very similar game where we got ourselves in front and I thought when we went in front we were the better team.
"Second half we conceded to another set play or second phase from a set play, but it was a wonderful strike, you have to give the lad Efrem credit. The reaction to that was great, getting ourselves back in front with a really good team goal. And then we showed a little bit of resilience to get the three points we wanted.
"I'm not going to sit here and say it was a fantastic performance. It was a good performance. And sometimes when you are coming out of the run of games we are coming out of, it's more important to win than the performance. The win was crucial for us because it gives us the opportunity to go home against Kazakhstan, another three points and that would set us up nicely for the play-off games in March."
Analysis: Scot building momentum
Sky Sports News reporter Luke Shanley…
'The buzz phrase coming into this game was 'building momentum for March', referring to Scotland's play-off semi-final in five months' time. One way of building momentum is winning and, at the end of the day, Scotland did that in Nicosia. It was just their second away win of the campaign.
'There is no doubt Steve Clarke would have wanted a more convincing and relaxing win, but given Scotland conceded early in the second half and responded almost straight away, they showed the character required going forward.
'Kazakhstan are the opposition in Scotland's final game and the team will be out for revenge after that humiliating defeat on Matchday 1.'
The Pundit - Stuart McCall
Scotland have put in an even performance. They scored two really good goals, which have been the difference.
It is a good victory and one that Scotland can take on to Kazakhstan on Tuesday and then they can get down to the nitty-gritty of the playoffs. And so they still have an outside chance of qualifying for the tournament!
Live Euro 2020 Qualifiers
Scotland complete their Group I campaign with a game against Kazakhstan at Hampden Park on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
No international break for Super 6
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