Northern Ireland beats the Czech Republic at Windsor Park.
Defender Jonny Evans headed the hosts in front before his West Bromwich Albion team-mate Chris Brunt fired in a superb free-kick before the interval.
Northern Ireland, who have now won five matches in a row for the first time, still have to face Germany and Norway.
Eight of the nine European group runners-up will make the play-offs.
Victory came courtesy of goals from the West Bromwich Albion defensive duo Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt plus a supreme team performance. Every man knew his job, everyone fought tirelessly, and all were rewarded with a record‑extending fifth consecutive win, a seventh clean sheet from eight qualifiers and Northern Ireland’s first success against the Czech Republic. The record that matters most to O’Neill is Northern Ireland qualifying for back-to-back tournaments for the first time in their history and they remain on course with a play-off place beckoning.
“As a performance it is right up there,” the victorious manager said. “But it’s a funny scenario because we don’t know the conclusion of it yet. With the Greece game we knew we were going to the Euros. At this moment we are very happy but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet. We have won all four home games and not conceded a goal. Those things are huge feathers for us.”
Jonny Evans was outstanding at both ends of the pitch and had to be with the Czech Republic often dominating possession but rarely testing Michael McGovern in the home goal. Manchester City’s failed transfer pursuit of the former United defender had no repercussions but the result stemmed from a game‑plan executed to perfection. A starting XI comprising of three Premier League players, five from the Championship, two from League One and one from the Scottish Premiership produced another stunning achievement.
The 29-year-old ignited the atmosphere with only his second goal for Northern Ireland. When Brunt’s corner was headed away by Filip Novak the ball was returned to the unmarked and onside central defender by a towering header from Oliver Norwood. Evans, lurking in the six-yard box and with the goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik closing in, dispatched a backwards header home. Windsor erupted in celebration of his first international goal since March 2009 and never stopped.