Michael O’Neill is now adamant his Northern Ireland side will be in France for Euro 2016 next summer after a 3-1 victory in the Faroe Islands moved them to the top of their Group F qualifying group.
Gareth McAuley scored two headers in Torshavn while Kyle Lafferty fired in his sixth goal of the qualifiers to defeat the 10-man Faroes and leave O’Neill’s team on the cusp of history.
Northern Ireland have not reached a major international tournament since the 1986 World Cup, but the current squad can end that long absence from elite international competition with victory over Hungary in Belfast in three days’ time.
“We know the significance of three points,” O’Neill said of the Friday night victory.
“It’s a fantastic prize for the players, well deserved. They’ve won three of the four games away from home which is phenomenal in any campaign.
“I genuinely can’t see them letting this opportunity...them not taking it - I can’t see how they won’t take it.”
The possibility that his men could choke with the prize so tantalisingly close is nt one O’Neill fears either.
Instead, he is looking forward to a Windsor Park meeting with te Hungarians which could end in joyous celebration.
“It’s a great scenario to be playing for qualification in our home stadium,” O’Neill added.
“The pleasing aspect of it is we do have a little bit of a safety net there as well. A lot of people talked about this as a must-win and a pivotal game - it really isn’t. The work we did in the early part of the group gave us a buffer that we didn’t need tonight.
“We can go into that (Hungary) game and do everything possible to win that group. We’re top and I just think the players will respond.
“This is the game that was going to be the nervous game. The next game, I think they’ll handle it. I look at the intensity of the team, right through the team, there wasn’t a player that didn’t perform tonight. I just thought we were excellent to a man.
“We just have to continue that. The effects of the game tonight and the fatigue element of it, I don’t think they will be a factor given what’s at stake.”
Next up is the visit of Hungary to Windsor Park on Monday night, where victory will ensure qualification to next summer’s Euro finals in France.
And goalscorers Lafferty and McAuley believe Northern Ireland can “finish the job”.
“We are looking forward to Monday night – it could be a massive night,” Lafferty said.
“We want to do it for the fans, and with this squad we believe we can do it – we will have to wait and see what happens on Monday.”
McAuley added: “The belief is there we can do it. We can get over the line.
“We showed patience tonight. We also showed a real hunger and desire to win the game.
“We all want to qualify for next summer’s finals and this was an important win for us.
“Hopefully we can carry this into Monday night and get another win against Hungary at Windsor Park.”
Faroes boss Lars Olsen claimed Edmundsson’s red card was the key moment.
“The way the match was played, I’m a little bit disappointed because I think we played very well if you see it compared to the game we played in Belfast,” he said.