Robert Lewandowski scored four minutes into stoppage time to earn Poland a 2-2 Group D draw with Scotland at Hampden that ends the hosts’ slender hopes of earning a place at Euro 2016.
The Poles got off to a flying start when Lewandowski continued his rich vein of goal-scoring form as he slotted home a third minute opener.
Matt Ritchie restored parity in the 45th minute with a wonder strike from 25 yards before Steven Fletcher fired Scotland in front with a sensational shot in the 62nd minute.
With time running out Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski bundled the ball over the line to keep his side just a point behind Ireland, who they face in a final showdown in Warsaw on Sunday, after they produced a shock 1-0 defeat of group leaders Germany in Dublin.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan said he felt sorry for his squad.
“I am hugely disappointed for the players. I’ve seen a group of lads give as much as they can give,” Strachan lamented.
“I’m really proud of what they’ve done as they put so much work into that and they’ve been a bit unfortunate.”
Polish manager Adam Nawalka said he always believed his side would get something from the match.
“I had a lot of faith in my team. Sometimes in games like this you feel a point means more to us than a win,” Nawalka said.
“We had a great start and were in control of the game and playing very good for a substantial part of the match but that is football. If you work hard you get your luck.”
Scotland knew all about the danger posed by Lewandowski, arguably Europe’s in-form striker with 12 goals in his previous four matches, but they were helpless to stop him opening the scoring with just over two minutes played.
Arkadiusz Milik’s through ball sliced open the Scottish defence, who were claiming offside, allowing the Bayern Munich hitman to race in on goal and slot a low shot under David Marshall to beat him at his near post.
Lewandowski made it 14 goals in 5 games
At times it felt like a home game for Poland, such was the noise being generated by a large travelling support.
The stunned Scotland fans eventually found their voice and urged their team on as they pushed for an opening but couldn’t find a way past a Polish defensive unit that had conceded just seven goals in qualifying.
The Poles, safe in the knowledge victory would claim their place in France, seemed content to sit back and utilise their forward line’s incredible pace to hit Scotland on the break.
Milik fired a shot wildly over the bar but moments later former captain Jakub Blaszcykowski was inches away from adding to their advantage with a shot that fizzed narrowly wide.
Scotland began to produce more as the game headed to the break with a period of sustained pressure on the Polish goal ending with Ritchie sending a low drive well wide of the target.
The Bournemouth winger made amends for that miss as he blasted a wonder strike past Lukasz Fabianski to draw Scotland level with the last kick of the half.
James Forrest cut in from the left and picked out Ritchie who took a touch before rifling a left-foot shot into the top left-hand corner of the net with Fabianski stranded.
The second half started in explosive fashion with Marshall producing a superb one-handed save to deny Milik before Steven Naismith missed a golden chance as he failed to make a proper connection with Steven Whittaker’s cross.
Lewandowski sent a shot over the bar after being picked out by Lukasz Piszczek before Fletcher produced a moment of magic to fire Scotland in front.
The ball came to the much-maligned Sunderland striker on the right of the box and he sent a sensational first-time left-foot strike flying past Fabianski.
Poland missed chances through Tomasz Jodlowiec and Piszczek before a scramble in the box following a free-kick in stoppage time saw Lewandowski prod the ball over the line for an equaliser that sent Scotland out.