This 2-0 defeat in Brussels – it could and should have been so much more – has sealed the fate of manager Craig Levein.He will not be asked to try and lead Scotland back into competitive action when the qualification for Euro 2016 kicks off in Autumn 2014.
A few weeks beforehand, Scotland's players and fans will be forced to watch as an eighth-consecutive major finals goes ahead without them.
That's four World Cups and four European Championships, occasions which we regularly attended – until it all started to go seriously wrong after France '98.
By the time the next campaign begins, the challenge of reversing this disappointing demise will be even tougher, given that Scotland continue to plummet down the Fifa rankings and are likely to be drawn from an even lower pot for the qualification group.
That is the sort of long-term damage which results like the opening four in this campaign – which have yielded only two points – is doing.
Of more immediate concern is limiting that damage as the squad appears to be rudderless with Levein at the helm.
"I believe we can win all 10 games," he infamously said before the Group A action began.
"It doesn't change anything," he said, after drawing at home to Serbia, another statement which had Scottish alarm bells ringing. Levein's words had little currency attached to them by the time he proclaimed before last night's must-win match in Brussels: "I believe I am the person best suited to continue and take this on. I believe in what I am doing."
That showed defiance, but no credibility, and the Tartan Army have made it clear they don't agree.
Now they must wait to see if Levein's bosses at the SFA concur with them, or the manager.
The credibility of chief executive Stewart Regan and president Campbell Ogilvie is what is on the line.
It is surely not a question of if Levein should go, or even when, but by which mechanism he is removed.
Resignation or termination? The outcome must be the same: Change, for everyone's sake.
He has been called a 'dead man walking'. The funeral must not be allowed to extend beyond this week, because the longer this continues, the longer the wait for a recovery mission to be launched.
Levein is a decent man, and he has given it his best shot. But as results confirm – only three wins in 12 competitive matches, two of them against Liechtenstein and one against Lithuania – his best has simply not been good enough.
Did he aim too high? His desire to invoke change at root and branch was laudable.
Meanwhile, our European Championship and now World Cup hopes withered on the vine.
Levein was not blessed with the finest group of players the country has ever produced, but that made the need to have them play in the most productive way their talents would allow all the more crucial.
Last night, not for the first time, he had eight Barclays Premier League players in his starting line up, plus the excellent Allan McGregor.
Had it not been for him, the defeat would have been a demolition. He held firm for 68 minutes before Christian Benteke finally beat him, followed by Vincent Kompany two minutes later.
With Kris Commons – already confirmed as a man who can perform at Champions League level – and Christophe Berra – seasoned in the English top flight – also in Levein's side, there was enough material with which to work.
But as our position at the foot of the table confirms, this was not about one bad night at the office. Previous results meant that being hard to beat is no longer a viable option.
It is, however, a default position for Levein which, when it mattered most, he failed to over-ride.
NOT using what he had at his disposal has been the biggest failing over the past two years under a man who was guilty of over-thinking his tactics and ignoring the glaringly obvious – like Steven Fletcher and Commons needed to be in his side, not locked out of his squad.
Intransigence is a major failing at any level. At the top, it is hugely destructive. Levein became the architect of his own downfall, and with him he has pulled down Scotland's hopes of winning back international credibility and respect.
The clamour to replace him will dominate debate from this point on, with proven gaffers of the calibre of Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish and Walter Smith high on the wish lists of many Tartan Army footsoldiers.
While time has run out for Levein, it is on the side of whoever is charged with picking up the pieces if and when Levein exits Hampden.
Ostensibly, this campaign is over, even though there are six games to go, resuming with the double header against Wales and Serbia in March.
The major surgery required must be performed as soon as possible, to give the patient the best chance of recovery.
Preferably, a compensation package can be agreed with Levein immediately, and the new man put in place before the friendly match against Luxembourg next month.
The cost of continuing down our current path would be significantly more.
It's a price we can't even contemplate paying.