Manchester United's Robin van Persie and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku enthralled in the penultimate round of World Cup qualifiers on Friday night as three more teams confirmed their presence at Brazil 2014.
Chelsea fans were once again left shaking their heads at the sight of their out-on-loan star providing another inspiring performance for Belgium that confirmed their qualification for a World Cup for the first time since 2002 with a 2-1 win over Croatia.
Within 15 minutes Lukaku raced on to a ball from Steven Defour to outdo Southampton centre half Dejan Lovren and former Spurs man Vedran Corluka before coolly rounding the goalkeeper to score his first.
25 minutes later he added his second. The 20-year-old elegantly dinked the ball over Lovren before sprinting the length of the opposition's half to round Croatia's exasperated Stipe Pletikosa once again and walk the ball into the back of the net.
Niko Kranjcar pulled one back for the hosts but it did nothing to dispel the euphoria emanating from the cluster of Belgian fans dancing in the rain at the Maksimir stadium.
United talisman Robin van Persie celebrated becoming Holland's all-time leading goal scorer after netting a hat trick in an 8-1 win over Hungary.
Already qualified for the tournament, the stage was set for the Dutchman who equalled Patrick Kluivert's record with his second before rounding off his hat-trick within 52 minutes to bring his international tally to 41 goals in 80 appearances.
Kluivert, now a part of Louis van Gaal's coaching staff, was one of the first off the bench to rush and celebrate with van Persie after the record was equalled.
While charming Arsenal fans once again may still be a work in progress, Nicklas Bendtner's brace against the already qualified Italy further endears him with Denmark fans whose World Cup hopes will now go down to the final game.
Southampton record signing Pablo Osvaldo opened the scoring after cutting inside and curling a sweet effort past the Danish goalkeeper, but Bendtner scored either side of half time before a last minute equaliser from Alberto Aquilani ensured the points were shared.
The Republic of Ireland's faint, faint hopes of qualification were firmly stamped out by Germany who sealed their qualification with a 3-0 win in Cologne. Captained for the first time by Everton's Seamus Coleman, the Boys in Green fashioned a number of chances for Celtic's Anthony Stokes before Ciaran Clark struck the bar.
The gulf in class some became apparent as Sami Khedira, Andre Schurrle and Mesut Ozil confirmed a German win that perhaps should have replicated their 6-1 thrashing of Ireland in Dublin earlier this year, if not for the exceptional performance from David Forde in goal.
Elsewhere in Europe, Spain moved three points ahead of France in Group I courtesy of a 2-1 win over Belarus in a game where Swansea's Michu made his debut and saw Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo score what would turn out to be the winner from the bench.
Meanwhile, Liverpool Martin's Skrtel suffered the indignity of scoring past his own goalkeeper, a goal that proved to be the only of the game in a 1-0 win for Greece over Slovakia in Group H.
In South America, Luis Suarez couldn't prevent Ecuador, captained by Manchester United's Antonio Valencia, taking a 1-0 win to leave the hosts with a fantastic chance of qualification for Brazil, while Copa America holders Uruguay may have to rely on a play off scenario.
Cardiff City's Gary Medal featured in a pulsating 3-3 draw with Colombia with the latter earning their place in their first finals since 1998, while up north Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore scored in a 2-0 win for the United States against a Jamaica side featuring Crystal Palace man Adrian Mariappa to confirm their spot at summit of their qualifying group.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: