Northern Ireland clinched a remarkable first win of their World Cup qualifying campaign as Martin Paterson’s header saw off Fabio Capello’s Russia.
Paterson superbly guided in Niall McGinn’s fine cross just before half-time to give Michael O’Neill a first win as NI manager in his 10th match.
Just before the goal Jamie Ward struck a post and in the second half Paterson had a header ruled out for offside.
It was Northern Ireland’s first win since August 2011.
That was a 4-0 success over the Faroe Islands under Nigel Worthington, who resigned just a few months later after a poor Euro 2012 qualifying effort.
Former Shamrock Rovers boss O’Neill took over in December 2011 but has had to wait almost two years for a maiden victory.
With their hopes of reaching the 2014 World Cup all but over after disappointing home draws against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, and the most recent defeat by Israel, things were looking bleak.
But, as they have done so often in their history, the men in green produced an against-the-odds victory when it was least expected.
Paterson’s header was his first competitive goal for Northern Ireland – his only other in a green shirt having come from a penalty in a friendly against Finland in August 2012.
It came just seconds after Ward’s low 25-yard drive had crashed off an upright, with Paterson just missing out on forcing in the rebound.
O’Neill’s men had started brightly with McGinn directing an ambitious volley wide and Paterson seeing his shot comfortably saved by CSKA Moscow keeper Igor Akinfeev.
However Russia, knowing victory would take them to the top of Group F over Portugal, took over and penned the hosts deep into their own half.
There was a real heart-stopping moment when Alan Dzagoev seemed to have worked an opening in the box but West Brom defender Gareth McAuley was again on hand with a fine sliding tackle to dispossess the Russian.
Northern Ireland, hit by the late withdrawals of Manchester United defender Jonny Evans and Palermo striker Kyle Lafferty, emerged from the pressure unscathed and produced a blistering finish to the first half.
The drama started in the 41st minute when Ward collected Danny Lafferty’s quick free-kick and ventured forward to drill a low shot against the post from 25 yards.
Paterson could not get any power as he attempted to force in the rebound but the Huddersfield Town striker responded to that disappointment by grabbing the goal which rocked the Russians.
McGinn set it up by getting behind his man and delivering the perfect ball from the byeline on the right, Paterson rising to steer a sublime header beyond the reach of Akinfeev.
In the 58th minute Paterson, who only started because of Kyle Lafferty’s injury, and Northern Ireland briefly thought they had a second.
Shane Ferguson’s corner was played back across goal by Craig Cathcart and headed in by Paterson, only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations.
Northern Ireland continued to play their hearts out, with their belief visibly expanding.
Russia became increasingly frustrated and, in the end, failed to get the result they needed to go top of Group F.
The night belonged to Northern Ireland and manager O’Neill.