Scotland have fabulous James Forrest to thank for being just two steps away from qualification for the European Championships.
After two decades of hurt, suddenly a finals fling seems tantalisingly close.
The Scots topped League C Group 1 thanks to this 3-2 win at Hampden over Israel and are now promoted to League B for the next time this complex competition comes around.
Most importantly of all, however, they have booked a home semi-final in the play-offs and then it could be on to a final that will decide who wins the golden ticket to Euro 2020.
If that happens then Forrest will have played a starring role in getting the country to its first finals since the World Cup of France 98.
He scored a quite sublime treble – the goals arrived on 34, 43 and 64 minutes – to add to his two in Albania.
It hadn’t looked so good early on, though, with the Israelis taking the lead through a superb strike from former Celtic player Beram Kayal on just nine minutes.
There were also nerves shredded with 15 minutes to go when Israel’s Eran Zahavi fired home to make it 3-2.
However, thanks to on-fire Forrest the visitors just made it.
The transformation of the Scots squad due to call-offs and no-shows was clear at kick-off when a comparison was made with the starting line-up from the 2-1 defeat in Israel just last month.
Only three players were left in the team from that miserable night in Haifa – captain Andy Robertson, goalkeeper Allan McGregor and midfielder Callum McGregor.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.
Indeed, it was with a sense of some relief that you looked at the team sheet and saw it would be the same side that played so well against Albania in Shkoder on Saturday night that would take the field for this one.
The Scots may have toiled in the Middle East but they actually came into this fixture with a good record in home competitive games. They had lost only one of their last 12 and that was to Germany when they were world champions.
After a scrappy and tentative start, the match came alive in spectacular style on nine minutes.
Former Celtic player Kayal was the scorer and it was an absolute beauty of a goal – in modern parlance a worldie – that left the Tartan Army stunned.
The 30-year-old Brighton player was given far too much time and space from the home players, who sat off him as they probably thought there was little danger.
However, Kayal made the most of his splendid isolation by smacking home a strike that gave keeper McGregor, who may have been too far off his line at the point of impact, no chance.
The Scots were looking sluggish but, on 22 minutes, they finally threatened the opposition goal. It all started with a strong forward run by Stuart Armstrong and ended with Israeli keeper Ariel Harush pushing McGregor’s shot away for a corner.
As the match approached the half-hour, defender Scott McKenna stooped down to head a corner wide then Forrest had his path to goal blocked.
The visitors were still a threat and Hampden held its breath on 32 minutes when Zahavi’s curled the ball right across the face of goal.
However, the home fans were cheering on 34 minutes when Scotland hauled themselves level.
There was yet more good work from Armstrong, who had a shot charged down. Forrest pounced on the loose ball, took a terrific first touch then slammed home a low drive with his right boot from 14 yards.
That finally got the supporters singing and they were in full voice again just two minutes before the break when Scotland took a 2-1 lead.
It was a snappy break started by an Andy Robertson ball up to Steven Fletcher.
The frontman head-flicked on to Ryan Christie, who burst upfield before playing an excellent ball across that was collected by Forrest with yet another sublime first touch. His second touch was a low, driven strike that once again sailed past goalie Harush.
The Scots came out for the second half unchanged and made yet another slow start.
They had a chance on 53 minutes, though, when Fletcher nodded Ryan Fraser’s corner a yard or so over Israel’s bar.
The danger now was that the home team would get deeper and deeper as they tried to hang on to their lead but there was no need to worry as fabulous Forrest grabbed his hat-trick.
With 64 minutes gone, the Scots surged forward up the left.
Fraser was the architect of the goal, slipping and sliding his way into the Israeli box before sliding a low ball to Forrest. The Celtic star took yet another brilliant first touch to make room for his shot before slamming the ball home.
The supporters sang “There’s only one James Forrest” and that must have been music to the Hoops player’s ears.
It looked then like it would be their night but that was put in doubt when Zahavi slammed home his shot from the edge of the box with 15 minutes to go to close the gap to just one goal.
They then had goalie McGregor to thank a wonder save with just two minutes left, the Rangers number one somehow stopping Israeli sub Temer Hemed’s close-range effort.
The visitors poured forward in the final minutes but the Scots did just enough and it’s the play-offs here we come.