Scotland made it eight games unbeaten – their best run in 32 years – as they resisted intense second-half pressure for a hard-fought Nations League win over the Czech Republic at Hampden.
Ryan Fraser’s sixth-minute finish gave the hosts a lead they clung on to.
Steve Clarke’s men defended resolutely – and were grateful for an incredible Tomas Soucek miss – to go four points clear at the top of Group B.
Their next assignment is the Euro 2020 play-off final in Serbia next month.
Fraser twice threatened a second before the break, and substitute Oli McBurnie smacked the crossbar late on.
But Scotland rode their luck amid a Czech onslaught to secure a third consecutive clean sheet and match the eight-game undefeated streak of Andy Roxburgh’s side of 1987-88.
The makeshift Czech side beaten at home by Scotland last month had been stood down, and the quality of the returning regulars was clear.
It was Scotland, though, who made the early breakthrough in an entertaining first half. Stephen O’Donnell harried Lukas Provod out of possession on the right, then shifted the ball to Lyndon Dykes.
The striker gave his marker the slip then played in Fraser to slide a low finish past Tomas Vaclik for his second Scotland goal.
The bedrock of Scotland’s revival under Clarke has been their defence, and it was tested to breaking point in the most difficult game of their fine recent run.
Burnley striker Matej Vydra missed two glaring chances for the Czechs in each half, blazing wide at the back post then firing across goal from a tight angle.
There was a further let-off for Scotland when defender Andrew Considine’s penalty-box shirt pull on Soucek went unpunished.
Clarke’s side carried a threat of their own before half-time. Fraser curled an effort narrowly past the post before a terrific counter-attack sent him scampering clear to lash one just too high.
The second half, though, was all about survival. The Czech chances piled up as David Marshall saved a Vydra flick, Soucek nodded wide, and John McGinn made a goal-saving intervention as he nicked the ball off the toe of Alex Kral.
There was a debut for Hibernian defender Paul Hanlon as Scotland battened down the hatches.
And when the ball dropped to Soucek three yards out with an empty net gaping, only for the West Ham midfielder to scoop the ball over, Scotland knew it was their night.
Man of the match – Ryan Fraser
What did we learn?
Clarke may just have struck gold with the unorthodox little-and-large pairing of Dykes and Fraser up front. Fraser, an impish winger by trade, provides the pace to complement Dykes’ physicality.
They linked well, as evidenced by the goal, in their second successive start together and now look Clarke’s preferred forward line for the seismic showdown in Serbia.
Scotland head into that tie on a wave of momentum and confidence that has fans believing the 23-year absence from major finals can finally be consigned to history. The spirit and unity of Clarke’s team shone through as they doggedly refused to accept anything else than victory.
- Scotland have gone eight games unbeaten (W6 D2), after losing their previous four.
- They have beaten the Czechs in the last three meetings of the sides.
- Scotland have registered three consecutive clean sheets for the first time since October 2017.
- Lyndon Dykes has been directly involved in seven goals in his last 11 games for club and country (6 goals, 1 assist).
- Ryan Fraser has been directly involved in six goals in his last eight starts for Scotland (two goals, four assists).
The big one – Scotland head to Belgrade on 12 November for a one-off play-off against Serbia to decide which side goes through to the Euro 2020 finals next summer.
- 1MarshallBooked at 81mins
- 18TaylorSubstituted forHanlonat 79′minutes
- 7McGinnSubstituted forPatersonat 79′minutes
- 9DykesBooked at 51minsSubstituted forMcBurnieat 65′minutes
- 17FraserSubstituted forMcLeanat 70′minutes
- 3CelustkaSubstituted forHovorkaat 20′minutes
- 18BorilBooked at 42mins
- 21KralSubstituted forKaderábekat 77′minutes
- 12MasopustSubstituted forPoznarat 66′minutes
- 10ProvodSubstituted forSevcikat 65′minutes
- 20VydraSubstituted forRabusicat 77′minutes
- Felix Zwayer
Match ends, Scotland 1, Czech Republic 0.
Second Half ends, Scotland 1, Czech Republic 0.
Attempt blocked. Michael Rabusic (Czech Republic) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Petr Sevcik.
Corner, Czech Republic. Conceded by David Marshall.
Attempt saved. Jan Boril (Czech Republic) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Vladimír Darida.
Hand ball by Vladimir Coufal (Czech Republic).
Corner, Czech Republic. Conceded by Kenny McLean.
Corner, Czech Republic. Conceded by Andrew Considine.
Oliver McBurnie (Scotland) hits the bar with a right footed shot from outside the box. Assisted by Callum Paterson.
Foul by Michael Rabusic (Czech Republic).
Paul Hanlon (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Tomas Soucek (Czech Republic) right footed shot from very close range is just a bit too high.
Jan Boril (Czech Republic) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Declan Gallagher (Scotland).
David Marshall (Scotland) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Tomás Poznar (Czech Republic).
Scott McTominay (Scotland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Scotland. Callum Paterson replaces John McGinn.
Substitution, Scotland. Paul Hanlon replaces Greg Taylor.
Substitution, Czech Republic. Michael Rabusic replaces Matej Vydra.