Robbie Keane turned in a captain's performance as he fired home a World Cup double in a 2-1 win over Georgia to take the Republic of Ireland level with reigning champions Italy at the top of Group Eight.
The 28-year-old striker completed a remarkable week or so for himself to wrench three points from Georgia's grasp inside a breathless five second-half minutes.
Keane, whose misery at Liverpool was ended by his return to Tottenham last Monday, once again demonstrated his potency in the green of Ireland to rescue a precious victory from the jaws of defeat on a night when his side was given a real scare by Hector Cuper's men.
Keane had voiced the opinion that the Republic had never in his time on the senior international stage had a better chance of achieving automatic qualification, although he was to experience once again football's uncanny ability to keep feet firmly on the ground.
The contest was around 46 seconds old when Alexander Iashvili struck and reminded Giovanni Trapattoni's men that every single point will have to be fought for.
Striker David Siradze rose well to flick on Ucha Lobjanidze's long ball and when Stephen Kelly, deputising for the injured Paul McShane, failed to react decisively, the tricky midfielder ghosted in to stab the ball past the helpless Shay Given.
Keith Andrews, making his first senior international start, did find the net but Finnish referee Jouni Hyytia spotted a raised flag and disallowed the strike for offside against Kevin Doyle, despite television replays showing it was the defender and not he who had got the decisive touch.
Kobishvili thought he had doubled the visitors' lead after the break but once again, an offside flag halted the celebrations, this time much to the relief of the home side.
The equaliser finally arrived with 17 minutes remaining, although fortune favoured Ireland when Lobjanidze was adjudged to have handled inside the area - the ball appeared to hit his shoulder - with the flag once again up for offside.
Keane's finish from the spot was assured as Lomaia went the wrong way, and the keeper's despair was to grow as he found himself beaten once more by the Irish hitman
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