Against the odds Scotland’s World Cup destiny is now in their own hands after an unlikely Group F resurgence.
A return of 10 points from the last 12 has breathed renewed life into a campaign that looked dead and buried four games ago.
A workmanlike win over minnows Malta, coupled with assistance from England’s 2-1 defeat of Slovakia at Wembley, kept the road to Russia open.
Scotland are just one point behind second placed Slovakia and have set up a do or die clash with them at Hampden on October 5.
The scenario is simple – beat Slovakia and then Slovenia away three days later and Scotland will finish second, which should bring a play-off spot.
It is a remarkable turnaround, as earlier in the campaign hopes of reaching Russia looked forlorn as did boss Gordon Strachan’s aspirations of leading the nation beyond this campaign.
Now Scotland are in with a real chance with only two games remaining – which is a scenario I never envisaged as the clock ticked down on a qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden in March.
I was getting ready to write the obituary to not just another failed qualifying bid but inevitably Strachan’s tenure as Scotland boss.
Then suddenly in that match Chris Martin poked home a last gasp winner and since that the Scots have not looked back.
Strachan’s squad now have winning momentum and, more importantly, renewed belief going into the must-win double headers next month.
There is no room for manoeuvre as it is six points or bust in the bid to prevent another campaign petering out in the clichéd Scotland tale of glorious failure.
Beating Malta on the back of the 3-0 defeat of Lithuania on Friday was the first time the Scots had claimed six points from a qualifying double header in a decade.
They will have to recreate that feat in early October.
Malta and Lithuania were nowhere near the level of opponent the Scots will face against Slovakia and Slovenia in October.
Scotland will have to reach far higher levels than they did to despatch a Maltese team ranked 190 in the world.
However, the performance against Lithuania hinted that can be achieved.
A whole generation of Scotland players, and fans, have missed out on major tournaments since their last appearance at France 1998.
Now the Scots have it in their own hands to end that major drought and give the national game a much-needed boost.
Scotland hammered five past Malta away from home in the Group F opener and this was very much an exercise in damage limitation for the minnows.
On paper this should have been a cake walk – as San Marino and Gibraltar are ranked higher than Malta in the FIFA World rankings so the visitors inevitably set up highly defensive
However, there is always the potential in international football for a shock if the work rate and commitment are not there.
Just 24 hours earlier a France side boasting more than £400 million of talent discovered that to their cost in drawing 0-0 at home with minnows Luxembourg.
Despite the resurrection of the campaign, an apathy still lurks within sections of the Tartan Army as Hampden was at half capacity for the clash.
Hampden will be a sell-out for Slovakia, the hottest ticket in town.
Boss Strachan went with the same starting line-up that had won so convincingly in Vilnius on Friday.
Captain Scott Brown walked a suspension tightrope as a booking would have seen him ruled out for the Slovakia game.
He managed to avoid a booking, despite provocation. Brown claimed Malta defender Steve Borg spat at him.
There was a familiar face to Aberdeen fans within the Malta starting line-up in Andre Schembri of Apollon Limassol.
Maltese captain Schembri scored the opening in the Cypriots’ 2-0 defeat of the Dons in the Europa League in Larnaca last month.
Scotland created the first opportunity when Stuart Armstrong shrugged off two challenges in the fifth minute to open up space but shot wide from 22 yards.
It was the first of 25 shots at goal from the Scots.
Moments later keeper Andrew Hogg dived to his left to push behind a James Forrest drive.
The opener came in the ninth minute as Christope BERRA rose above Steve Borg to meet a Leigh Griffiths cross and head home at the back post from five yards.
In the 31st minute Kieran Tierney forced a save from 25 yards.
As the half wound down, Andy Robertson and Matt Philips both tested the keeper with long range drives as the Scots continued to attack.
The Scots doubled their advantage in the 49th minute as Armstrong found Robertson on the left.
His low cross picked out substitute James Morrison, who stretched out a leg to force an eight-yard shot onto the foot of the post.
GRIFFITHS was in a perfect position to slot home the rebound from close range.
Forrest forced a save in the 55th minute from Hogg low at his near post with a 22-yard drive.
Scotland continued to push forward for more goals but found it tough to break the Maltese down. A vicious long-range strike from Tierney flew over with the keeper struggling to cover.
In the 67th minute Griffiths broke free of his marker but his low shot was weak and straight at the keeper who easily smothered it.
A rare foray up front from Malta saw Craig Gordon save from Joseeph Zerafa at the near post.
The Scots stopper palmed it straight into the path of Alfred Effiong who turned the rebound towards goal.
Luckily for Gordon, the shot was straight at him. Had that gone in it would have made for a nervous finale.
Instead the game fizzled out after that, although in the dying minutes Phillips fired a powerful 25-yard shot just over the bar
SCOTLAND: Gordon, Tierney, Robertson, Berra, Mulgrew, McArthur, Armstrong, Brown, Griffiths, Phillips, Forrest.
SUBS: Morrison (for McArthur 46), Hanley (for Mulgrew 55), Martin (for Griffiths 70)
SUBS NOT USED: Archer, McGregor, Anya, Naismith, Ritchie, Snodgrass, Fraser, McGinn, Martin.
MALTA: Hogg, Magri, S. Borg, Agius, R. Fenech, Schembri, Z. Muscat, Kirstensen, Zerafa, Effiong, Pisani.
SUBS: Gambin (for Schembri 71), P. Fenech (for Kristensen 85), A. Muscat (for . S Borg 86)
SUBS NOT USED: Bonello, Failla, Mifsud, Farrigia, C. Borg, Johnson.
REFEREE: Jakob Kehlet (Denmark).