Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn said it was “unbelievable” after his equaliser helped Northern Ireland set-up a Euro play-off final against Slovakia.
Ian Baraclough’s side fought back from a goal down against Bosnia and Herzegovina before winning on penalties – the first time Northern Ireland have ever been involved in a shoot-out and the manager’s first victory of his tenure.
Hearts striker Liam Boyce scored the winning spot-kick.
However, it was McGinn’s second-half goal which hauled Northern Ireland level in Sarajevo after Rade Krunic’s early strike.
McGinn said: “First and foremost it’s unbelievable, what a feeling personally to get a goal to get us back in the game.
“It was sheer determination, the work ethic within the squad, the team spirit was brilliant.
“For the boys to step up and take the penalties, unbelievable. What a night.
“We got the support from back home and everything has been great. This was definitely for the fans.
“We didn’t get the best of starts, we were under pressure. It’s a tough place to come, they’ve got lots of good players, but the character we showed… we knew we had to group together at half-time, but we started the second half well.
“I was getting a bit of joy down the left and I was there in the right place at the right time and slotted it away.
“I’m delighted to score but more importantly put us one step closer.”
The victory means Northern Ireland will now have a chance to book a ticket to the rearranged Euro 2020 finals next month in Belfast when they face the Slovaks, who saw off the Republic of Ireland in a shoot-out in Bratislava.
Bosnia were roared on by around 1,500 fans allowed into the Stadion Grbavica for a game which marked Steven Davis’ record-breaking 120th cap.
Bosnia named a makeshift back four in which former Nottingham Forest man Anel Ahmenhodzic made his debut, Branimir Cipetic picked up his second cap and Sinisa Sanicanin only his third, but Northern Ireland struggled to test them in the first half as the hosts dominated possession.
They took the lead with 13 minutes gone. Paddy McNair and Jamal Lewis had already slipped on a surface which Northern Ireland did not train on in the build-up to the match, and when Jonny Evans became the third player to lose his footing it proved costly.
As the Leicester man stumbled, Cipetic took his chance to pull the ball back for Krunic to fire in.
Baraclough’s side almost made an immediate response as Corry Evans’ long ball picked out Josh Magennis, but Ibrahim Sehic made a superb save to deny the Hull forward from close range.
Bosnia still looked the more dangerous of the two sides for the rest of the half.
However, the visitors were quicker out the blocks after the break.
On 53 minutes, McGinn chased down a ball into the box, nicking it away from Cipetic, beating Sanicanin, and then firing past Sehic to level the match.
— Niall McGinn (@nmcginn10) October 9, 2020
It could have been two moments later as McGinn sent in a cross towards McNair, but Sead Kolasinac did just enough to put him off right in front of goal.
Ultimately, there were to be no more goals for either side before the shoot-out.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell saved from Haris Hajradonovic and Edin Visca hit the crossbar before Northern Ireland emerged 4-3 winners thanks to Boyce’s strike.