Harry Kane marked his first game as captain with a stoppage-time equaliser as England denied Scotland a famous victory in Saturday’s 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw in Glasgow.
England were heading for a first qualifying defeat since October 2009 after Leigh Griffiths struck two glorious late free-kicks to wipe out substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 70th-minute opener.
But in a breathless denouement, Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane dispatched a deep cross at the back post to preserve England’s unbeaten record in Group F and deny Scotland a first win over their oldest rivals since 1999.
“The end for me is a significant moment because the character of the team has to come through in these moments,” said England manager Gareth Southgate, whose side face France in a friendly in Paris on Tuesday.
“The objective is to qualify and we’re top of the group. We haven’t managed to win, but given the narrative of the game, we’ve got to be pleased to take the point.”
England remain top of their qualifying pool, but Slovenia have trimmed their advantage to three points and Slovakia could cut it down to two if they win in Lithuania later in the day.
Kane’s strike, his sixth in 18 England games, was a sucker-punch for Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, whose side remain in fourth place, three points off a possible play-off berth.
But after March’s last-gasp 1-0 win over Slovenia, this was another display to nourish hope of a first major tournament appearance since the 1998 World Cup.
“At 60 years old, that would have been the best result of my footballing career,” said Strachan.
“To do what they did was phenomenal. You can’t do any more than they did. It was like a middleweight fighting a heavyweight.”
England were left in no doubt as to what kind of afternoon awaited them before kick-off when ‘God Save the Queen’, the English national anthem, was drowned out by a volley of Scottish boos.
The tone was the same on the pitch, with Scotland captain Scott Brown booked inside three minutes for taking out England danger man Dele Alli from behind.
Urged on by the Hampden Park faithful, Scotland started on the front foot, Griffiths sending a shot down Joe Hart’s throat in the early stages.
Scotland’s deep-lying 5-4-1 system starved England’s creative players of space, but gradually cracks began to appear.
After a risky sortie by Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon, Kane saw a lob headed off the line by Kiernan Tierney, with Gordon scampering back to divert Marcus Rashford’s follow-up behind.
Gordon was tested again twice before halftime, tipping Adam Lallana’s drive into the side-netting and unconvincingly fisting a Jake Livermore effort over the crossbar.
Livermore went even closer early in the second half with a low shot that was deflected against the base of Gordon’s left-hand post.
But Scotland posed a threat on the break, Andrew Robertson spurning a sight of goal by slicing over from Griffiths’s cut-back and Stuart Armstrong curling off-target.
Southgate reacted by sending on Oxlade-Chamberlain for Rashford in the 65th minute and five minutes later, the Arsenal man put England ahead.
After gathering a throw-in on the right, Oxlade-Chamberlain twirled around Brown, edged across the box and let fly with a left-foot shot that flew through Gordon’s feeble attempt at a save.
Lallana squandered a chance to extend England’s lead when he headed over and the visitors were punished in the 87th minute as Celtic striker Griffiths sent a free-kick arcing over the wall and inside the right-hand post.
It was Griffiths’s first Scotland goal and the first England had conceded in the campaign.
Hampden erupted and there was more to come, with Griffiths caressing another free-kick inside the opposite post to send the Scots fans into raptures.
But Kane would have the last word, ghosting in at the back post to volley in Raheem Sterling’s cross from the left and completing a dizzying finale.