It was the "must-win" game that Northern Ireland almost lost. Thankfully, Bailey Peacock-Farrell was alert enough in injury time to produce a blinding save, otherwise an extremely frustrating night against Bulgaria at Windsor Park would have turned into a truly disheartening one.
Defeat at home to the unadventurous and uninspiring Bulgarians would have left Ian Baraclough and his players feeling like April Fools having dominated the World Cup qualifier like few others in the 21st century.
Check out these stats from Uefa: Northern Ireland had 67 per cent possession, 487 completed passes compared with 151 for the visitors, 12 corners to two and 14 attempts on goal to three. Yet for all that, the home side couldn't deliver that vital breakthrough in the 0-0 draw.
Sure, Baraclough's boys were out of luck when Stuart Dallas headed against the bar in the first half, but too often they were in fantastic attacking positions and failed to show the cutting edge required to win matches like this. There was some wasteful finishing but more often than not the final ball wasn't incisive or inventive enough. The players are better than that.
That's why Northern Ireland have only one point in Group C right now rather than three.
You must also question if the manager could have done more. He would have been pleased with the control his team had and the advanced and dangerous positions they found themselves in using both the 3-5-2 formation he started with and the 4-3-3 he reverted to near the end, but with 20 minutes left I had the feeling the game was crying out for something different.
Wildcard Dion Charles offers that with his direct, fearless style down the middle but he was kept on the bench when rolling the dice with the in-form Accrington Stanley striker may have shaken up the Bulgarians, who were content to soak up the pressure and numerous crosses coming from wide areas. It was worth a shot.
The national team qualifying for World Cups is, of course, a big ask. Even Michael O'Neill couldn't do it. And when paired with Italy and Switzerland, that task became more challenging. But Northern Ireland should be beating a Bulgarian side with little confidence and struggling physically after demanding back-to-back defeats against the top two sides in the group.
As Under-21 boss, Baraclough nearly qualified for a tournament and that's the problem with the senior team at present. After the glory of Euro 2016, which they are all desperate to repeat, they are becoming nearly men: nearly reaching the Euro 2020 finals, losing the play-off decider to a Slovakian side they should have overcome, and nearly beating Bulgaria.
To give themselves a chance of eradicating that label, Northern Ireland must hope Italy win all their remaining qualifiers bar the last one at Windsor Park.
At the same time, Steven Davis, Jonny Evans et al must beat Lithuania home and away and Bulgaria in Sofia, which would mean a two-leg showdown with Switzerland for second in the group and a play-off spot. We have been down that road before.
Baraclough's side don't play again until this season is over when they travel to Turkey and Ukraine for friendlies. In September, the World Cup bid will resume in Lithuania - another must-win. If Qatar dreams are to come true, nearly just won't do.