Gareth Bale completed his hat-trick in injury time as Wales earned a dramatic 3-2 World Cup qualifying win over Belarus.
Rob Page’s men started brightly and went ahead through Bale’s fifth minute penalty in Kazan.
But Belarus hit back with a spot-kick of their own which was coolly lashed home by Vitali Lisakovich before Pavel Sedko put them ahead moments later.
Wales pushed after the restart and equalised through Bale’s second spot-kick midway through the second half.
And the 32-year-old’s shot squirmed in with 93 minutes on the clock as Wales claimed all three points in Russia.
Covid-19 cases, visa issues and injuries all played a part in ensuring Page was on the back foot before a ball was even kicked at Central Stadium.
Wales were without no fewer than 13 players, including Kieffer Moore, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Rodon, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu for the arduous trek to Russia.
And those key absences paved the way for Brennan Johnson and Rubin Colwill to make their first competitive starts for Wales.
Chris Gunter and Ben Davies flanked the centre-back pairing of Chris Mepham and James Lawrence while Joe Morrell and Joe Allen were tasked with marshalling the midfield as Daniel James and Bale bolstered the attack.
Page’s troops dominated possession from the outset, and shortly after Gunter had a shot blocked, Wales – as was the case in Finland on Wednesday night – were presented with the chance to go ahead from the penalty spot after Bale was clattered by Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Chernik in the box.
The captain stepped up to take it himself and sent Chernik – who was booked for committing the foul – the wrong way to put Wales in front.
The outpour of emotion from the Real Madrid ace summed up his delight after ending his personal run of 16 matches without scoring for his country.
And it set the tone for a comfortable start to proceedings for the visitors who saw Allen have a shot saved soon after.
However, Belarus grew into the contest and finally gave Danny Ward something to think about as Vladislav Klimovich drilled just wide from outside the box.
But after James fired just wide, Georgi Kondratiev’s side turned the game on its head as Gunter was penalised for a high boot on Nikolai Zolotov in his own box.
Despite the best efforts of Ward, Lisakovich lashed home the equaliser before the half hour mark, and just 92 seconds later, Belarus took the lead.
Colwill lost possession which led to Lisakovich leaving Lawrence in a spin, and he squared to Sedko who tapped home to complete an astonishing turnaround.
In truth, it was the designated home side who were causing the most problems as Wales’ much-changed defence struggled to cope whenever they were put under pressure.
Aleksandr Sachivko headed wide from close range after evading the attention of Lawrence before Klimovich’s curling effort flew beyond Ward’s far post in injury time as Wales were lucky to get into the interval just one goal behind.
Something had to give, although Page resisted the urge to make any changes for the second half.
Johnson very nearly struck a sweet leveller five minutes after the restart, although Chernik clawed away the Nottingham Forest man’s goalbound effort.
Mark Harris replaced his Cardiff City team mate Colwill on 58 minutes to win his first senior cap before Jonny Williams came on for Johnson as Wales desperately went in search of goals.
And after Davies was shoved over by Max Ebong in the box, Wales were awarded a second spot-kick.
Bale once again sent Chernik the wrong way to make it 2-2 with just 21 minutes left on the clock.
The skipper twice fired well off target soon after as Page’s men continued to push for a vital winner while he was denied a third penalty after a collision in the box.
Artem Bykov very nearly won it for Belarus in spectacular fashion with a thunderbolt that flew just wide from around 25 yards out. Bale’s free-kick then failed to test Chernik before Ward made a vital block to keep out Lisakovich’s shot in the final stages.
And after substitute Harris came agonisingly close to netting, Bale’s shot found a way into the net in the third minute of injury time – his 36th international goal – as Wales avoided dropping points against a side ranked 70 places below them by FIFA to ensure they remain firmly in the mix to claim a top two spot in Group E.
Belarus: Chernik (C); Shvetsov, Khadarkevich, Sachivko, Zolotov; Begunov (Shauchenka 78), Ebong (Podstrelov 73), Bykov, Klimovich, Sedko (Yuzepchuk 73); V Lisakovich (Skavysh 90).
Subs not used: Stepanov, Pavlyuchenko, Pechenin, Rakhmanov, Grechikho, R Lisakovich, Kontsevoi, Antilevski.
Goals: V Lisakovich 29, Sedko 30
Yellow cards: Chernik 4, Bykov 11
Wales: Ward; Gunter, Mepham, J Lawrence, B Davies; Allen, Morrell; Bale (C), Johnson (J Williams 63), James; Colwill (Harris 58).
Subs not used: Hennessey, King, Lockyer, Sheehan, Norrington-Davies, Smith, Woodburn, Levitt.
Goals: Bale 5, 69 & 90+3
Yellow card: Gunter 28
Referee: Giorgi Kruashvili
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