Trailing at the break, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia staged a spirited second-half comeback to defeat Northern Ireland 3-1 and maintain their hopes of a play-off berth.
The visitors, who had to win to stay in touch with Serbia at the Group 4 summit, were behind as early as the tenth minute. Stefan Spirovski lifted the gloom on 48 minutes, before Filip Timov and Aleksandar Stankov set the seal on a vital three points.
Those cold facts only tell half the story of an entertaining contest which sparked into life when Josh Magennis powered Andrew Mitchell's corner past Stole Dimitrievski. The visitors retreated into their shells and were almost hit with a second when Billy Kee's speculative effort caught Dimitrievski unaware.
FYROM settled into their rhythm five minutes later, David Babunski's cultured effort finding the fingertips of Conor Devlin, before Timov sent a low drive straight into the goalkeeper's legs. They soon found their composure, though, when Spirovski's sumptuous free-kick crept in three minutes after the break.
A nerve-jangling 24 minutes elapsed until FYROM found a second, Timov latching on to Babunski's neat pass and steering in. Stankov wrapped up the points in added time, after Connor McLaughlin was sent off, shrugging off his marker and beating Devlin from close range.
FYROM must now win in Serbia on Monday and hope Denmark drop points at home to Northern Ireland in order to top the group.
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