Robbie Keane, doubtful before the match with a groin strain, smashed home two vital goals to give Ireland a key victory over Macedonia in Skopje.
His two goals put him at 50 for his international career, making him the highest scoring striker in Ireland or Britain
The win meant Ireland kept pace with Russia and Slovenia who also won their games.
All three have thirteen points at the top of the table.
Keane put Ireland ahead early in the game when his shot from outside the box hit a Macedonian defender and went into the net and before half time he added a second with a clinical finish.
Macedonia had an earlier claim for a penalty turned down and were then awarded one after John O'Shea fouled in the box.
However, keeper Shay Given was relieved to see the kick hit the crossbar.
Ireland held on easily in the second half to pick up the valuable points.