10/06/1982 Baku Azerbaijan 1-0
Michael McGovern, Conor McLaughlin, Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley (Niall McGinn (Lee Hodson)), Jonathan Evans, Stuart Dallas, Steven Davis, Oliver Norwood, Chris Brunt, Josh Magennis, Liam Boyce (Kyle Lafferty)
Stuart Dallas struck an injury-time winner as Northern Ireland beat Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier to boost their hopes of making the finals.
By Alvin McCaig
BBC Sport NI
The midfielder fired low into the net in a hot and humid Baku after the hosts squandered three good openings.
Ramil Sheydaev fired over when clear through in the first half before Afran Ismayilov wasted two opportunities.
NI withstood pressure before Dallas scored and they are now four points clear in second place in Group C.
Azerbaijan looked the more likely to score a late goal but they were punished as Dallas fired home from a Jonny Evans pass.
Northern Ireland have increased the gap on third-placed Czech Republic, who were held to a 1-1 by Norway in Oslo, and are on course for a play-off spot.
Group leaders Germany thumped San Marino 7-0 with the world champions maintaining a five-point cushion to Michael O’Neill’s side.
Gareth McAuley missed last week’s friendly win over New Zealand with a thigh injury, which returned at the worst possible time for Northern Ireland.
The West Brom defender slowed up with the injury on 23 minutes, allowing Sheydaev to race through on goal but he lifted the ball over both the advancing Michael McGovern and the bar.
McAuley was forced off and boss O’Neill switched from a 3-5-2 formation to 4-3-3, a move which disrupted the visitors’ rhythm and left Liam Boyce isolated in attack.
It also resulted in a more vulnerable defence, particularly in the second half, while the set-piece threat of McAuley was gone.
The Leeds midfielder provided late drama with a clinical finish and what could prove to be a crucial goal in Northern Ireland’s bid for a first World Cup finals appearance since 1986.
Dallas put in a solid display before latching on to a fine cut-back from Evans and stretching to guide the ball pass keeper Kamran Agayev.
Christ Brunt impressed in the first half with his pin-point deliveries, finding Evans and Josh Magennis, who both headed off-target.
He also curled a teasing cross which just evaded the sliding Boyce but the West Brom player struggled at left-back in the second half.
He twice let in Ismayilov, who saw a low shot saved by McGovern before blazing over after going clear on the right.
Michael O’Neill: “Three, four years ago we would have lost this game 1-0 and people would not be surprised by that. The result is testament to the spirit in the team. We stayed in the game, fought hard and got a lucky break.”