Stephen Ireland spared the Republic of Ireland's blushes with a last-gasp winner as Steve Staunton's men denied San Marino a first-ever point in UEFA European Championship qualifying and kept alive their hopes of progressing from Group D.
Manuel Marani looked to have earned the home team a famous draw in Serravalle when he cancelled out Kevin Kilbane's 49th-minute opener with a rasping low shot four minutes from time. It seemed enough to secure a first point in 38 matches in this competition, but with just eight seconds of stoppage time remaining, Ireland tapped in a simple chance from close range to spoil the celebrations.
In truth, the visitors dominated large swathes of the match, but were constantly let down by poor finishing. Damien Duff served an early indication of things to come when he scuffed a fourth-minute strike wide, although Lee Carsley came close to breaking the deadlock when he shaved the crossbar with a rising effort soon after. San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini was eventually called upon, making good saves to deny Ian Harte then Duff, before Robbie Keane contrived to drill wide when well placed – there were still only 15 minutes gone and a repeat of Ireland's 5-0 victory in November appeared on the cards.
Keane and Kilbane continued to drive the Republic forward, before the latter finally broke the deadlock after half-time, heading in at the far post after debutant Shane Long had flicked Steve Finnan's cross into his path. Keane then squandered a fine opportunity to seal the win after a mazy run from Duff and the missed chances came back to haunt the visitors when Marani capitalised on a mix-up between Paul McShane and goalkeeper Wayne Henderson. Ireland's last-gasp goal rescued the Irish, however, to lift the side third in Group D. San Marino remain bottom.