Wales 1-0 Ukraine: Dragons end 64-year wait for World Cup qualification
Wales will appear at the World Cup for the first time in 64 years after Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 qualifying play-off final win over Ukraine.
Ukraine marked their first competitive match back after Russia's invasion with a 3-1 play-off semi-final win over Scotland on Wednesday to tee up the winner-takes-all decider in Cardiff.
Oleksandr Petrakov's visitors controlled first-half proceedings but were made to pay when Gareth Bale, with the help of Yarmolenko's head, struck first after 34 minutes.
Wales were largely indebted to the heroics of Wayne Hennessey as Rob Page's team held on to book their spot in Qatar alongside England, United States and Iran in World Cup Group B.
A long-range Viktor Tsygankov drive forced an early save from Hennessey, who tipped over a deflected cross from the Ukraine winger from the resulting corner.
Oleksandr Petrakov's visitors, buoyed on by a vociferous away crowd, continued with their dominance as another smart Hennessey stop denied Roman Yaremchuk as he threatened with a drilled effort.
Hennessey kept out Oleksandr Zinchenko's curler and the Wales goalkeeper's plethora of first-half saves paid dividends, with Yarmolenko heading Bale's goal-bound free-kick past Georgi Bushchan.
Aaron Ramsey angled a glorious chance from Kieffer Moore's cutback wide, while Hennessey kicked away Tsygankov's close-range prod in an entertaining second-half opening.
Ruslan Malinovskiy fired a deflected strike wide as Ukraine searched for an equaliser, with Brennan Johnson hitting the post and Bushchan denying Bale at the other end during a frenetic finish.
Hennessey was again the hero as he produced a fantastic stop against Artem Dovbyk in the closing stages to send Wales to the World Cup.
What does it mean? Wales end long, long wait
Wales had missed 15 editions of the World Cup since last qualifying in 1958, but Page's side ended that long wait in front of the home support inside the Cardiff City Stadium.
That 64-year gap between qualifying for international football's showpiece event surpassed the previous 56-year record jointly held by Egypt (1934 – 1990) and Norway (1938 – 1994).
Page will ready his team to face rivals England, USA and Iran in a wide-open group in Qatar, while Ukraine faltered in a World Cup play-off for a fifth time.
Bale may take the plaudits for his ninth goal involvement (five goals, four assists) of the World Cup qualifying campaign in just his seventh appearance.
But Hennessey was the reason Wales will be playing in the World Cup, the goalkeeper making a remarkable nine saves – with his tip over against Dovbyk the pick of his stops.
Yarmolenko moved three behind Ukraine's all-time top scorer Andriy Shevchenko with his 45th international strike against Scotland, but the captain faltered in Wales.
While the 32-year-old may have been unfortunate to deflect into his own net, Yarmolenko also won just three of his eight duels in a quiet display.
Wales return to Nations League action at home to Netherlands on Wednesday, when Ukraine open their campaign in the same competition away to the Republic of Ireland.