In the end, the very end, Harry Kane popped up with an injury-time victor, but the goal was missed by thousands of fans who had long since given up and gone home.
Northern Ireland entered the game with an outside chance of automatically qualifying ahead of Germany, but Rudy's unstoppable drive with barely two minutes on the clock allayed any lingering fears for the visitors, and heralded the start of an imperious display from Joachim Low's side.
Southgate is also likely to experiment with his tactics as he looks to develop a system capable of aiding England's chances in Russian Federation. Last November there was a 2-2 draw with Spain, when England were 2-0 up until the 89th minute.
England have already played Germany this year, going down 1-0 in a March friendly in Dortmund to a Lucas Podolski strike in his last worldwide.
Kane is one of the few players who would be considered a must-pick, but all the ringing endorsements are based on his outstanding performances for Tottenham Hotspur, rather than on what he has achieved so far in an England shirt. The Three Lions will soon be back home. Needs game time at club level or he will be a passenger in Moscow.
"It [criticism of Hart] comes with the scrutiny of playing for England".
After another scare early in the second period, Hart nearly fumbling a header from Bojan Jokic, England belatedly manufactured some thrust in the game's last third. A lot of good teams won't go to that World Cup, so we are pleased but still know there is room for improvement.
Kane and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson have shared the captaincy between them in England's last four games and the wearer of the armband on Thursday will give a clue as to Southgate's long-term thinking on the matter.
But they were relying on a stalemate between Montenegro and Denmark and instead saw Christian Eriksen hit a first-half victor.
KYLE WALKER: Struggled both with passing and positional play. When Spurs or England loses possession, he becomes the first defender.
The wing-backs pick themselves.
"He's playing on the left, right-footed, so he can go either side, which he showed a couple of times as well".
Clemence's worldwide career might have been even more distinguished were it not for the presence of Shilton and an underwhelming period for the England team.
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