James Forrest inspired Scotland to Nations League promotion as his hat-trick headlined a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Israel in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Twice on target in the 4-0 trouncing of Albania on Saturday, Forrest maintained his rich form by overturning former Celtic team-mate Beram Kayal's opener in the space of nine first-half minutes and completing a decisive treble just after the hour.
Alex McLeish's men - beaten 2-1 in the reverse fixture - needed three points to leapfrog Israel into top spot in Group 1 of League C and were made to negotiate an anxious last 15 minutes when Eran Zahavi reduced the deficit.
Scotland demonstrated maturity to steady and saw off one final scare with help from Allan McGregor to confirm their ascension to the Nations League's second tier.
Early tension at Hampden Park ratcheted up when midfielder Kayal, afforded time to pick his spot from 25 yards, curled a brilliant effort beyond Allan McGregor in the ninth minute.
Scotland responded confidently and, after Ariel Harush acrobatically denied Callum McGregor, Forrest took charge.
The winger pounced on a kind deflection from Stuart Armstrong's initial shot to restore parity and guided his side ahead in a one-on-one in the 43rd minute, Ryan Christie having skilfully squared following Steven Fletcher's headed flick-on.
And it was Scotland's star man who all but made the points safe in the 64th minute as he expertly cushioned Ryan Fraser's lay-off and clinically picked out the bottom-right corner.
Israel rallied late to give the contest life as Zahavi turned on Bibras Natcho's pass and picked out the bottom-left corner, but McGregor's close-range denial of substitute Tomer Hemed in the 88th minute spared the hosts from heartbreak.
What does it mean? McLeish finds formula for the future
Two successive competitive victories, both achieved with reasonable helpings of attacking panache, should be enough to convince McLeish that the unconvincing three-man defence previously employed is to remain at best a secondary option.
It may be tricky to fit Kieran Tierney into his newly adopted 4-3-3, but that conundrum is surely outweighed by the positives, as Scotland celebrate Nations League promotion and having a Euro 2020 play-off safety net in place before the main qualification campaign begins.
Forrest finally flourishing
Much has been expected of Forrest since he debuted for Scotland in 2011, at which time he was still not established in Celtic's starting XI.
Now, after going scoreless in his first 24 international outings, the 27-year-old suddenly has five goals to his credit and looks a player increasingly at ease in the national team.
He scored three goals from five attempts, as well as creating three chances for his team-mates, with the lively Fraser setting up four on the opposite flank - two of which were assists.
4 - James Forrest has scored four goals in his last two games for Scotland, after failing to score in his previous 24 appearances. Awakening. pic.twitter.com/GEwLPtvXL9— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 20, 2018
Peretz fails to match previous heights
On the scoresheet and influential when the teams met in October, Dor Peretz picked a poor time to lose sight of those standards as he struggled to exhibit any kind of influence from midfield, failing to create a single chance for his team-mates and barely seeing the ball before being replaced after Forrest's third goal.
Key Opta Facts:
- McLeish has won consecutive matches as Scotland manager for the first time since October 2007 during his first stint in charge (6 wins).
- Scotland have lost just one of their last 13 competitive home games (W9 D3), remaining unbeaten in each of their last eight (W5 D3).
- Forrest is the first player to score a hat-trick for Scotland since Robert Snodgrass in September 2016 vs Malta.
- Scotland’s Fraser has been directly involved in 15 goals in 17 appearances for club and country combined in 2018-19 (5 goals, 10 assists).
Scotland will head to December's Euro 2020 qualifying draw with renewed optimism, while Israel have time to reflect on a missed opportunity. The next international fixture window is in March.
|Messi ´never imagined´ his success after winning record fifth Golden Shoe|
|WATCH: Timberwolves´ Gibson tries to block shot with his trainer|
|Mourinho sacked: Klopp praises departed Manchester United boss|
|Mourinho sacked: Jose the best Manchester United manager since Ferguson - Gerrard|
|Mourinho sacked: Ferdinand calls for ´fresh ideas´ at Man United|
|Mourinho sacked: The mystique has gone as United spell ends in divorce|
|´He´s an interest not only for us but for many´ - Zola praises rumoured Chelsea target Wilson|
|Mourinho sacked: Pochettino focused on Spurs amid Manchester United rumours|
|Mendis eyes double-century for departing Samaraweera|
|Mourinho sacked: Zola expects Jose to be in another job ´soon´|
|Mourinho sacked: Five reasons it went wrong at Manchester United|
|Mourinho sacked: Jose´s Manchester United record in Opta stats|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba, Ronaldo and Jose´s biggest bust-ups|
|Mourinho sacked: Blanc, Solskjaer - the men who could steady the United ship short-term|
|Mourinho sacked: The football world reacts|
|Mourinho sacked: What former United stars said after Liverpool loss|
|Mourinho sacked: Where next for the axed Manchester United boss?|
|UEFA to investigate alleged racist incidents at Vidi-Chelsea|
|Australia unchanged for rest of India series|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba´s tweet a dig at departing Man United boss?|
|Newton left frustrated by shoulder injury as Panthers lose again|
|Mourinho sacked: Pochettino & Zidane lead potential Man Utd replacements|
|Mourinho sacked: Neville urges Man United to go for Pochettino|
|Boylen pleased to see Bulls react to red rag in Thunder fracas|
|Icardi and Inter ´very far´ apart in contract negotiations|
|Mourinho leaves Manchester United|
|Curry humbled by latest milestone|
|Robertson: ´Unbelievable´ Alisson will bounce back from error|
|Curry scores 15,000th regular-season point in Warriors win|
|Rams star Gurley ´day-to-day´ with knee inflammation|
|Saints poised to clinch NFC top seed after topping Panthers|
|Mathews, Mendis centuries frustrate New Zealand|
|Kohli: Relentless Australia deserved victory|
|Relief for Paine and Australia after ending Test drought|
|Australia level series with dominant win over India|
|Libertadores holders River learn group as CONMEBOL boss calls for end to violence|
|Chargers RB Gordon planning to return against Ravens|
|Kobe Bryant visit motivated Browns´ Jabrill Peppers|
|De Bruyne: Fatigue not behind injury woes|
|´That´s not my concern´ - Broncos coach Joseph on job security|
|Lowry on Leonard´s free agency: I just want him to be happy|
|Yankees give Sabathia $500K bonus despite ejection|
|Ronaldo confirmed Juventus interest in January – Mendes|
|Lakers guard Rondo to begin rehab stint in G League|
|Saiz to leave Leeds United for Getafe|
|Whyte thinks Joshua rematch is ´only a matter of time´|
|Greenwood stars as Man United end Chelsea´s FA Youth Cup dominance|
|Panthers tight end Olsen expects ´full recovery´ after surgery|
|Derby County 0 Nottingham Forest 0: Lampard´s men fourth after tense stalemate|
|Clermont lose former All Black Toeava for six months|
|MLS unveils revamped playoff format for 2019 season|
|Ferrari to celebrate Schumacher´s 50th birthday with museum exhibition|
|Rabiot set for PSG exit after cancelling contract talks|
|Pepe departs financially troubled Besiktas|
|Philadelphia Flyers fire coach Dave Hakstol|
|Eagles to start Foles v Texans|
|PSG matches against Montpellier and Dijon rearranged|
|Martial agent clouds long-term future after United trigger extension|
|Zverev to make major final in 2019, predicts Ferrero|
|Canelo, Crawford, Lomachenko and the other pound-for-pound contenders|
|Barcelona boss Valverde admits to Lyon uncertainty|
|Club World Cup: Maverick Quintero gets another chance on the big stage|
|Henderson to miss majority of Ireland´s Six Nations campaign|
|Gentner to play on despite father´s death|
|Just good banter – Australia and India not concerned by Paine-Kohli exchange|
|Titans CB Logan Ryan out for season with broken leg|
|Suns send Trevor Ariza to Wizards for Kelly Oubre, Austin Rivers|
|Mourinho charge for ´improper´ language dismissed|
|Are the Knicks for sale? Depends on the offer, says Dolan|
|Klopp´s Liverpool are vulnerable – Neuer|