Shane Long scored the decisive goal 12 minutes from time as the Republic of Ireland beat Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Dublin Arena to extend their unbeaten run to 13 matches.
The visiting Bosnians more than played their part in an entertaining game, and they looked the superior side in the opening half an hour before Ireland's energy and desire ultimately proved decisive. The introduction of Aiden McGeady after the break helped the hosts increase their threat and it was his cross that Long headed in as Ireland appeared practically unrecognisable from the compact, conservative side who battled their way through qualification.
For all their attacking menace on the flanks, though, this looked like being a game of near misses. James McClean forced Asmir Begović into a smart, one-handed save at his near post, Damien Duff troubled the Bosnian goalkeeper with a low shot that went narrowly wide and McGeady, latching onto Kevin Doyle's header, smacked a shot off the post.
The woodwork would also deny Jonathan Walters on 74 minutes as he aimed to make the most of a pinpoint cross from the right by McGeady, and, with chance after chance spurned, the game seemed destined to finish goalless. The breakthrough finally came four minutes later, however, as the FC Spartak Moskva winger sprinted down the right flank and picked out Long, who converted with a brilliant header.
With that, there was no way back for the visitors. Indeed, they had Begović to thank for keeping the score down with two superb saves: one with his feet from Walters, and another with his outstretched left hand from Long. Safet Sušić’s men had their chances – notably from Zvjezdan Misimović and Mehmed Alispahić – but this was not to be their day.