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From San Marino singsong to Serbia shootout, Scotland’s storied play-off history

Wales v Scotland
(Image credit: PA)

Scotland added another storied chapter to their history of make-or-break qualifying matches with their victory over Serbia in Belgrade on Thursday night.

The penalty shootout win for Steve Clarke’s men sparked jubilant celebrations and ensured the Scots would qualify for a first major tournament finals this century.

Here the PA news agency takes a look at six occasions where Scotland have come out on top in a crucial qualifying clash.

Scotland 2 Czechoslovakia 1, for World Cup 1974

Scotland would reach the 1974 World Cup

Scotland would reach the 1974 World Cup (PA)

Willie Ormond’s team got off to a nightmare start at Hampden as Zdenek Nehoda’s freak shot squirmed past Ally Hunter at the near post. But to the delight of a 100,000-strong crowd, Jim Holton nodded the hosts level at the break. Joe Jordan made himself a national hero with 15 minutes left as he flung himself at the ball to head home the winner, sealing a place in the finals in West Germany and sparking a run that would see the Scots qualify for five straight World Cups.

Wales 0 Scotland 2, for World Cup 1978

Kenny Dalglish scored at Anfield

Kenny Dalglish scored at Anfield (PA)

The Welsh have still not forgiven Jordan for his handiwork in this clash, 42 years later. With Ninian Park barred from hosting this clash after crowd trouble the previous year, the Welsh FA switched things up by staging the crucial clash at Anfield. But it was the Tartan Army who flooded into Liverpool to see the Scots take the lead after French referee Robert Wurtz wrongly penalised Dave Jones for handball in the box when TV pictures showed it was Jordan who had clearly punched the ball goalwards. Don Masson coolly slotted home from the spot before Kenny Dalglish booked Scotland’s place on the plane to Argentina with the second late on.

Australia 0 Scotland 0, for World Cup 1986

Jock Stein's death stunned Scottish football

Jock Stein’s death stunned Scottish football (Lynne Cameron/PA)

There was triumph and tragedy at Ninian Park on September 10 1985, as Davie Cooper slotted home a late equaliser from the penalty spot to secure the Scots’ place in a two-legged shootout with Australia for a place at the finals in Mexico. But as the Tartan Army celebrated, news filtered through that manager Jock Stein had collapsed and died from a heart attack. It was left to Alex Ferguson to pick up a bereft nation as the then Aberdeen boss took over on a caretaker basis. He oversaw a 2-0 win over in Glasgow courtesy of goals from Cooper and Frank McAvennie, with a goalless draw in the Melbourne return good enough to see Scotland through.

Scotland 5 San Marino 0, for Euro 1996

Eoin Jess scored against San Marino

Eoin Jess scored against San Marino (Chris Bacon/PA)

Craig Brown’s team were desperate to seal an invite to the Euro 96 party being staged south of the border but thankfully there was little drama on the night as they cruised past minnows San Marino at Hampden. Goals from Eoin Jess, Scott Booth, Ally McCoist, Pat Nevin and a late Fabio Francini own goal saw the Scots finish as runners-up behind Russia, leaving the jubilant Tartan Army to sing: “Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be, We’re going to Wembley, Que sera, sera…”

Scotland 2 Latvia 0, for World Cup 1998

Gordon Durie scored against Latvia

Gordon Durie scored against Latvia (Owen Humphreys/PA)

There was little room for error at Celtic Park as the Scots found themselves vying with Austria and Sweden for the two automatic spots on offer for a place at France 98 going into the final round of fixtures. Their rivals both won but Craig Brown’s team did the business as Kevin Gallacher and Gordon Durie pounced to seal victory and the chance to kick off the tournament in front of the watching world the against reigning champions Brazil the following summer.

Serbia 1 Scotland 1 (Scotland win 5-4 on penalties), for Euro 2020

Serbia v Scotland – UEFA Euro 2020 – Play-offs – Final – Rajko Mitic Stadium

Scotland celebrated their play-off win in Serbia (Novak Djurovic/PA)

David Marshall’s penalty save from Alexandar Mitrovic sealed Scotland’s place in Euro 2020 finals after a dominant performance against Serbia in Belgrade. Steve Clarke’s men dominated the majority of the 90 minutes and led through Ryan Christie’s strike which took them to the cusp of sealing qualification in normal time. But the Scots faced the prospect of play-off agony after Real Madrid striker Luca Jovic headed an equaliser for Serbia in the last minute, and sent the game into extra time. The relief was evident in the Scotland camp after Marshall’s decisive spot-kick save, with players and team members pouring onto the pitch in celebration.