Serbia and Montenegro ended their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign on a high, as Wales's final hopes of gaining an automatic place in Portugal and avoiding the play-offs ended.
Wales in play-offs
Italy's 4-0 win against Azerbaijan meant that Mark Hughes's side could not overhaul the Group 9 leaders in any case, but Wales's 2-1 victory against the eventual first-placed team early in the campaign was enough to ensure they pipped tonight's victors by a point to Monday's play-off draw.
Unbeaten run ends
The home team had made a number of changes to the team held 1-1 by Finland here last month, with left-back Darren Barnard, fellow defenders Danny Gabbidon and Mark Delaney, midfield player Carl Robinson and striker Craig Bellamy all in the starting lineup and began the game defending an unbeaten run in the Millennium Stadium going back to June 2001.
However, they have now gone five games without a victory having fallen behind on three minutes to a Zvonimir Vukic free-kick. John Hartson shot Wales level 22 minutes later when Goran Gavrancic pulled him back in the box and the Celtic FC striker converted the resultant penalty himself.
The visitors added Goran Bunjevcevic, Dragan Sarac, Nenad Djordjevic and Branko Boskovic to the side that beat Wales 1-0 in August, but it was goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric who caught the eye, making a string of superb saves from Rhys Weston, Bellamy, Barnard and Gabbidon.
Those blocks paid dividends eight minutes from time when Serbo-Montenegrin substitute Savo Milosevic received Vukic's superb pass and send a left-footed shot past Welsh goalkeeper Paul Jones to make it 2-1. Five minutes later, another substitute Danijel Ljuboja virtually clinched the away win with a powerful shot.
Robert Earnshaw headed in a well-worked corner in added time to pull one back for Wales, but they will want a more positive result in November against one of Croatia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.