For 88 minutes this was a special kind of torture.

The five that came after it seemed every bit as long as the near on hour and a half that preceded it.

Denied by a combination of fine goalkeeping from Martin Dubravka and the woodwork, this looked like being a classic Scotland performance all the way.

It was not until two minutes from regulation time as the dream flickered and faded and looked to be disappearing from view that a sclaffed, untidy goal – substitute Chris Martin claimed it, Martin Skrtel looked to have had the last touch – yielded the reward that Scotland had craved all night.

Read more: Scots in the pink on night of drama at Hampden

To be fair to Gordon Strachan’s side, despite the fortuitous nature of the goal few would have denied them the win against ten-men Slovakia in which they shed everything to get the result they needed.

There were a number of fine performances from the men in pink – marketing suits have a lot to answer – but Leigh Griffiths underlined again the vast maturation in his game while James Forrest too was excellent until he was, somewhat puzzlingly, replaced in the second period.

The result leaves Scotland in second place in Group F, two points ahead of Slovakia and three ahead of Slovenia, with their fate crystalised against Slovenia on Sunday.

Read more: Strachan tells Hampden heroes: Don't stop believing as World Cup journey is still alive​

There was no real surprise at Gordon Strachan’s starting line-up with no place for John McGinn or Callum McGregor, but what did raise an eyebrow was the manner in which Scotland started the game.

So often in these occasions, Scotland find their bubble burst early doors with the concession of a goal that punctures both belief and game plans but to their credit it was an energetic start that could well have yielded a more fruitful scoreline.

Dubravka set the tone for a night in which he would frustrate Scotland with the first of a number of decent saves when he produced a twisting aerobic block to deny a powerful Christophe Berra header midway through the opening.

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Ten minutes before the break he had stopped to save from Griffiths, with Forrest the provider this time.

The Celtic winger had an impressive opening period with his direct running a cause of consternation for the Slovakians in what was his best performance in a Scotland shirt.

Kieran Tierney, too, on the unfamiliar right-hand side of defence against for Scotland did his usual shift of up and down the wing and the full-back was aggrieved in the early stages that he one his trademark runs forward did not bear fruit with a penalty.

Tierney looked to be bodychecked by Robert Mak early on in the affair, and although referee Milorad Mazic waved away the spot-kick claims, it did not take long for Mak to be back in the spotlight.

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A crunching late tackle that took out Forrest earned him his first booking of the night. The second followed soon after at the other end of the pitch.

Chasing a long ball as Craig Gordon came sliding out to claim it, Mak headed to the turf as though he had been upended by the keeper. Television replays showed no contact and to be fair to the Serbian referee, he called it correctly immediately.

Oddly enough, though, for all that Scotland had started the game well the reduction of their opponents to ten men affected their game plan with the men in the middle almost passed by.

There were no changes at the break with Scotland re-emerging to try and find the goal they so badly needed.

Read more: Scots in the pink on night of drama at Hampden

Griffiths had a header from a Tierney cross that was directed relatively tamely into the arms of the goalkeeper and as the minutes ticked by there was an impatience about making midfield changes as Scotland searched for the elusive goal.

The longer the game went on the more likely it seemed that one goal would be all it would take to settle the affair.

Forrest hit the target after a Barry Bannan free-kick had come back but despite being at a numerical disadvantage there was a composure about Slovakia. Stanislav Lobotka tested Gordon after being teed up by Marek Hamsik, while Jan Gregus drew another block from Gordon as Hampden began to get restless.

It was Forrest whose number came up, an odd call for this observer given that Forrest had been Scotland’s most creative player, while Martin came to the fore.

Read more: Chris Martin dreaming of further heroics after latest vital contribution to Scotland's World Cup bid

Within seconds, though, any wrangling about the change was almost forgotten as Griffiths had a left-foot effort that was tipped over the bar by Dubravka and Scotland set about going back to their task of finding a way past the Slovaks.

Darren Fletcher had to receive treatment for a bloodied wound at the back of his head prompting a return to the field with full bandaged scalp.

Martin blasted a spectacular long-range effort that curled high and onto the crossbar as Hampden rose to their feet and although the pressure was sustained, Scotland were repeatedly frustrated as they tried to find a way through.

It was Martin, too, who was upended on the edge of the box to give Griffiths the chance to repeat his England heroics. Amid the expectations, Griffiths delivered – only to see Dubravka get a hand to push his effort onto the crossbar.

Read more: Scotland 1-0 Slovakia: How Scotland rated​

Within seconds, it had come closer again. Robertson’s ball through broke to James Morrison but his effort which looked destined for the back of the net, was palmed away again by the keeper who more than earned his appearance money.

As the charge forward grew more frantic, so the game inevitably opened, with Slovakia’s forward moments causing some moments of anxiety.

Still, it was Scotland who finished the night on song.

Griffiths deserved credit for his tenacity in shipping the ball put to substitute Ikechi Anya and as he teed up Martin the player’s shot seemed to be helped into the net by Skrtel. Not that there were any complaints as Hampden bounced and sang in delight.

All eyes to Slovenia now.