Michael O’Neill admitted he feared Northern Ireland’s chance had gone before Paddy McNair stepped up with an 85th-minute winner in Belarus on Tuesday night.
Northern Ireland’s hopes of making it four wins out of four to start their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign were certainly fading as time ticked down but McNair chose the perfect moment to score his first international goal, racing in from the left and firing under goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor.
The win keeps Northern Ireland top of Group C and piles pressure on Holland, who may have two games in hand after their adventures in the Nations League finals, but will go to Germany in September nine points adrift of O’Neill’s men.
“You have to have belief in your team,” said O’Neill, whose side grew in stature in the second half and deserved the later winner.
“I felt at times possibly the game was going to finish 0-0.”
Both of Northern Ireland’s previous wins - in the reverse fixture against Belarus in March and the 2-1 win over Estonia in Tallinn on Saturday - have come via late goals, a happy habit for Northern Ireland to have.
“We were just hoping something was going to happen, someone was going to step up and win you the game,” O’Neill said.
“That’s what Paddy did, it was a fantastic goal, a very good goal.
“Paddy’s really coming of age in this campaign with four games played.
I’m delighted for him coming off the back of a serious injury, he’s not played a lot for his club this season but he’s made a huge impact for us,” added O’Neill.