Republic of Ireland's slim hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup were dashed after David Alaba once again struck late against Giovanni Trapattoni's side to earn Austria three crucial points with a 1-0 victory at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion on Tuesday evening.
The 21-year-old, who broke Irish hearts with an injury time equaliser back in March, proved to be the difference in a game largely bereft of any real quality as he struck six minutes from time in Vienna.
With their prospects of securing a place in Brazil and manager's job hanging by a thread, the Boys in Green knew nothing less than three points would be enough but failed to create any meaningful opportunities before Alaba pounced on Marc Wilson's loose clearance to clinch all three points for the hosts.
The defeat is sure to signal the end of Giovanni Trapattoni's tenure with the Italian expected to pay for a turbulent twelve months and another unsuccessful qualifying campaign while Austria's chances of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998 have been enhanced greatly with a couple of games remaining.
With both sides needing a victory to keep their World Cup hopes alive, both managers opted to make changes from their respective defeats to Germany and Sweden. The hosts were boosted by the return of Julian Baumgartlinger, who missed Friday's loss in Berlin through suspension, while Werder Bremen defender Sebastian Prodl and Guido Burgstaller were also re-called.
Trapattoni, not surprisingly, made just the two changes with one of those enforced as Paul Green replaced the injured Glenn Whelan and Anthony Pilkington starting on the left wing in place of James McClean.
Just as they did against Sweden in Dublin, the Boys in Green saw plenty of the ball in the opening exchanges and started in the ascendancy but once again looked devoid of any real quality in the final third. After a bright opening for the visitors, a scrappy midfield battle ensued as both sets of players conceded possession at regular intervals.
It wasn't until the twenty-first minute that either side managed to put together a meaningful attack together but Shane Long couldn't get on the end of Walters' cross, albeit he had strayed offside, after the Stoke man had dispossessed Prodl on the left.
The Austrian defence, who have conceded just eight goals during the qualification campaign, looked vunerable against the long ball and David Forde's innocuous free-kick sailed over Christian Fuchs but Robbie Keane's cross come shot travelled harmlessly across goal.
As the half wore on and the rain continued to fall in Vienna, the game began to open up as both sides searched for the vital opening goal. However, it was Ireland who continued to look more likely to break the deadlock as Pilkington shot just wide of Almer's upright after determined build-up by Long.
The 50,000 home fans came alive ten minutes before the break when Fuchs set Bayern Munich speedster David Alaba free but his stinging left-footed effort was well turned around the post by Forde before the Millwall 'keeper was quickly off his line to deny Martin Harnick.
In an attempt to gain control of proceedings, Marcel Koller introduced Christoph Leitgeb for the ineffectual Kavlak but the substitution did little to alter the flow of the game as both sides continued to attack at will in search of all three points.
Long-range efforts from West Brom striker Long and then Marc Wilson hinted at the visitors' desperation but hardly threatened Almer in the Austrian goal before John O'Shea was forced off with an ankle injury. Pilkington showed glimpses of his club form during his full debut and nearly created the opening shortly after the hour mark but his low cross was cut out by Fuchs at the near post.
Despite their dominance, the Boys in Green should have found themselves behind with twenty minutes remaining but Aston Villa striker Andreas Weimann could only fire straight at Forde from the penalty area - adding to the frustration of the home fans.
The hosts began to turn the screw as the Irish defence came under increasing pressure and had Seamus Coleman to thank for keeping their inferiorily ranked opponents at bay with a superb double-block when Harnik expected the net to bulge.
However, the pressure eventually told as Wilson failed to deal with Fuch’s cross from the left, allowing Alaba time and space to compose himself before smashing past the helpless Forde into the roof.
Marcel Koller's side now sit three points behind second-placed Sweden in Group C, while Ireland are a further three points adrift and effectively out of the running.
|Coach: M. Koller|
for V. Kavlak 45+1'
for G. Burgstaller 60'
for A. Weimann 73'
|Kranevitter joins Atletico on five-year deal|
|Maiga leaves West Ham for Al Nassr|
|Blackburn Rovers 0 Bolton Wanderers 0: Lancashire derby ends in stalemate|
|Coutinho, Rafinha called into Brazil squad|
|Guingamp 2 Marseille 0: Privat and Benezet inflict more misery on visitors|
|Wolfsburg 3 Schalke 0: Hosts canter to victory without De Bruyne|
|Villarreal 3 Espanyol 1: Soldado inspires turnaround|
|Carpi v Inter: Mancini demands full focus|
|De Bruyne set to complete City move, reveals Allofs|
|Roma v Juventus: Champions seek to bounce back|
|Motta pens new PSG deal|
|Settled Bale in the hunt for more titles at Real|
|Blind hands Robben Netherlands armband|
|Rodriguez joins Everton from River Plate Montevideo|
|Bolivia appoint Baldivieso|
|Southampton v Norwich City: Neil holds south-coast club up as inspiration|
|Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain: Rabiot wants champions to send a message|
|Barca face tough group - Luis Enrique|
|Swansea City v Manchester United: Van Gaal celebrates 50th game in charge|
|Herrera pushing for United start, says Van Gaal|
|Borussia Dortmund v Hertha Berlin: Tuchel puts perfect record on the line|
|Michu still not part of my plans if he stays – Monk|
|Hughes not expecting late transfer deals at Stoke|
|FIFA or bust in Platini´s presidency bid|
|Cuadrado struggles to explain Chelsea snub|
|Atletico seal Borre deal|
|Schalke loan Hojbjerg from Bayern|
|Sissoko in contention to face Arsenal|
|Advocaat confident of more signings, but De Guzman not among them|
|Berahino ´not just a lump of meat´ - Pulis|
|Ajax set to face Champions League quality - Van der Sar|
|Pellegrini quiet on intense De Bruyne speculation|
|Van Persie and Nani offer cause for Celtic excitement - Hawthorn|
|Lopes seals Monaco switch|
|Mourinho silent on Stones saga|
|Milan snap up Kucka|
|Can earns first Germany call-up|
|Dortmund get kind draw, Sousa takes Fiorentina back to Basel|
|Costa and Mata return for Spain qualifiers, De Gea gets the nod|
|Rodriguez omission not personal - Benitez|
|Allofs frustrated by Premier League´s financial muscle|
|Sherwood hopeful over Traore fitness|
|Leverkusen sign Kampl from Dortmund|
|Toivonen joins Sunderland on loan from Rennes|
|Markovic has Liverpool future, says Rodgers|
|Martinez insists Stones in perfect environment at Everton|
|Tottenham wrap up Son deal|
|Schmeichel wants Real target De Gea to re-sign with United|
|Cech is one of the best - Cudicini|
|Rodwell hoping for more goals|
|Thauvin needs time to settle at Newcastle – Haidara|
|Kennedy takes blame for Celtic´s loss, stands by zonal marking|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Comunicaciones, Motagua off the mark|
|Rooney´s contribution undervalued - Schmeichel|
|Jedinak ruled out as Socceroos make changes|
|Sampdoria not a ´discount store´ - president Ferrero|
|Montolivo: No issue with Mihajlovic|
|Gilardino signs for Palermo|
|Chelsea target ´China´s Sergio Ramos´|
|Striker search like looking for love - Pochettino|
|Hecking ´sick´ of De Bruyne talk|
|Deschamps calls up Martial, leaves out Sakho|
|´The only thing they can is long balls´ - Midtjylland´s skipper slams Southampton|
|UEFA Europa League Review: Reus leads Dortmund rout, AZ complete late comeback|
|Messi should win Ballon d´Or - Bartomeu|
|Koeman rues refereeing decisions after Europa League defeat|
|Tottenham deal for Son not complete, say Leverkusen|
|Tuchel thrilled with aggressive Dortmund display|
|Midtjylland 1 Southampton 0 (2-1 agg): Premier League side crash out|
|Borussia Dortmund 7 Odd 2 (11-5 agg): Reus hat-trick highlights hammering|
|Cudicini tips Mourinho to avoid Porto upset|
|Anything is possible with Neymar´s future - Belletti|
|Burnley bring in Barton|
|Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen: Vidal putting friendships on hold|
|De Bruyne edges closer to City move after further Wolfsburg talks|
|Real Madrid v Real Betis: Benzema back as Real look to hit the goal trail|
|Barcelona v Malaga: Rosales hopes for another upset|
|West Brom hit out at Tottenham´s Berahino pursuit|
|Stoke City v West Brom: Pulis set for Britannia return|
|Tottenham v Everton: Pochettino´s men eye first win|
|Everton reject Stones´ transfer request|
|Messi named UEFA Player of the Year|
|Pocehttino quiet on Berahino bids|
|Real Madrid to meet PSG in Champions League, Barca drawn with Leverkusen|
|Bournemouth v Leicester City: Howe eager to entertain|
|Ranieri coy on Gray link|
|Newcastle United v Arsenal: Wenger hopes for sharper shooting|
|PSG snap up Kurzawa from Monaco|
|Aston Villa v Sunderland: Sinclair aims to replicate cup form|
|Grabban a silly boy - Neil|
|Chelsea v Crystal Palace: Pardew braced to face stronger champions|
|Manchester City v Watford: Flores heads to Etihad with confidence|
|Marseille loan Real Madrid youngster Lucas Silva|
|Howe surprised by Harte´s retirement|
|Liverpool v West Ham: History counts for nothing, says Bilic|
|Bolasie set for Palace comeback|
|De Bruyne to City not a done deal - Allofs|
|Sevilla complete Llorente swoop|
|Wenger supports video technology|
|Milan v Empoli: Zapata sets sights on ´must-win´ fixture|
|Watford boss Flores ´not happy´ with transfer situation|
|Balotelli: I am no longer a kid|
|Bilic has no issue with Valencia|
|Arsenal ´not close´ to any late deals|
|Balotelli finalises return to Milan on loan|
|West Ham confirm Nolan departure|
|Thiago signs new Bayern deal|
|Schmidt saddened as Son nears exit|
|CONCACAF Champions League Review: Sounders lose in Honduras|
|Van Gaal considered early Herrera substitution|
|MLS Review: Fire stun Red Bulls|
|Carroll nears West Ham return|
|Rodriguez hoping for England recall|
|Leverkusen can challenge best - Schmidt|
|Ozil defends United recruit Schweinsteiger|
|Sporting ´better over two legs´ - Jesus|
|Stoilov revels in historic Astana triumph|
|Pioli: Lazio not ready for Champions League|
|UEFA Champions League Review: Rooney nets treble and Astana make history|
|Everton to reject Stones´ transfer request - Martinez|