FC Anji Makhachkala are five points clear in second place in UEFA Europa Group K after leaving it late to win 1-0 at bottom club Tromsø IL.
Rooted to the foot of the Russia Premier League after failing to win any of their opening 15 matches, Anji put their domestic woes to one side with a spirited first-half display. Tromsø picked up the pace after the break but their qualification hopes evaporated at the death when Karlen Mkrtchyan poked in from close range, on a night when section leaders Tottenham Hotspur FC sealed their progress.
Less than two minutes were on the clock when Anji's Alexandru Epureanu directed a free header straight at goalkeeper Marcus Sahlman from Alan Gatagov's free-kick. The visitors' passing remained crisp and precise, busy midfielder Abdul Razak eliciting a fine save from Sahlman at his near post after skipping inside Tromsø defender Jarosław Fojut.
The start of the second half bore a striking resemblance to the first as Gadzhi Gadzhiev's team dictated the tempo while Tromsø defended in numbers. The hosts' resolve was almost broken shortly before the hour, Mkrtchyan combining with Razak and sending a left-footed shot narrowly past a post.
With that reprieve, the Norwegian outfit broke free from their defensive shackles. Thomas Bendiksen led the charge, lifting a through ball into the path of Steffen Nystrøm, who found the legs of Evgeni Pomazan after outstripping the Anji backline. That, however, was as good as it got for Tromsø, whose campaign took a definitive turn for the worse when Vadim Demidov eked out a cross from the left for Mkrtchyan to score.