08.10.2005 at 18:00 Nicosia
0 - 1
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
World Cup Qualifier / PROG-match
Cyprus 0 Rep of Ireland 1
Match number 415
Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr lives to fight another day - but only after surviving arguably the worst 45 minutes of a reign which remains under threat.
Kerr should issue a personal vote of thanks to Shay Given for keeping him in a job - and the Republic's World Cup hopes alive - as the Newcastle goalkeeper produced one of those world-class performances for which he has become renowned.
A desperately-needed victory means Ireland go into their final Group Four qualification clash against Switzerland at Lansdowne Road on Wednesday knowing another three points will see them finish in the top two, and with it at least a crack at the play-offs.
Sunderland striker Stephen Elliott emerged the match-winner, scoring the first goal for his country as early as the sixth minute, albeit preceding a shocking performance from the Republic at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
The pre-match spotlight had understandably focused on Kerr, a man on whom the pressure has grown with each passing day since last month's home defeat to France, and increasingly in the build-up to this match.
The strain has been evident in the last few days, notably as he opted out of a press briefing on Tuesday, and then conducting one on Wednesday which lasted just 67 seconds.
At his one and only press conference of the week yesterday, Kerr was defiant, although at times prickly, in particular when quizzed about his contract that is due to expire.
The Football Association of Ireland have hardly helped his cause, refusing to discuss the matter as they have obviously been waiting for the fate of their national team to be resolved - which remains up in the air.
At least the opener from Elliott was a moment to remember for the 21-year-old, and will surely have brought a sigh of relief from Kerr - and probably the whole of Ireland for that matter.
The Republic worked the ball superbly from one side of the field to the other in the build-up, eventually resulting in a cross floated in for Robbie Keane.
The Spurs striker showed his strength in holding off the challenge of Lambros Lambrou, with the ball eventually bouncing off him and into the path of Elliott, who turned sharply to fire home from eight yards.
It was a goal which should have eased a few nerves, but instead the Irish players lived on them for the remainder of the half.
With no Roy Keane, the inspirational midfielder out with a broken bone in his left foot, Ireland lacked their true leader, a player to take the game by the scruff of the neck as he so often has done in the past.
But there was no midfield to speak of, with Keane's replacement in Graham Kavanagh and the more experienced Kevin Kilbane absent without leave, and that in turn resulted in the defence falling apart in terms of shape.
Ultimately, Ireland and Kerr were forced to rely yet again on Given, who saved his side time and again with a string of outstanding stops.
One of the game's defining moments came in the 14th minute when Richard Dunne brought down Ioannis Okkas inside the area, with Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai quickly pointing to the spot.
Given had already made one superb save a minute before when he denied Okkas from close range, and this time the Newcastle goalkeeper excelled himself as he was at full stretch in tipping away with his outstretched left hand Okkas' spot-kick.
Given's heroics continued as Chrysostomos Michail and Alexandros Garpozis were denied before another moment of magic from Given five minutes from time, who pushed over the bar a dipping 22-yard half-volley.
Kerr made a change at half-time, bringing off the ineffective Steve Finnan who had looked out of place on the right wing.
Charlton midfielder Matt Holland slotted into the middle alongside Kavanagh, with Kevin Kilbane pushed out to the left wing and Damien Duff switched to the right.
It brought a degree of stability as Ireland never again found themselves under the kind of pressure they were forced to weather in the first period, although there were still one or two anxious moments.
Ireland still had the better chances, with Kilbane flicking narrowly wide a Kavanagh free-kick, while Keane had a 78th-minute chance hooked off the line by Loukas Louka.
They eventually held on, with one of the negative moments coming when Duff limped off just after the hour with a knee injury which could sideline him for the now-critical Swiss clash.