Wayne Rooney hit a brace as England took a significant stride towards Euro 2012 with an impressive 3-0 hammering of Bulgaria in Sofia.
A decade after that memorable 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, Fabio Capello's men could not quite come up with a repeat performance.
Nevertheless, their hosts had no answer to a three-goal first-half salvo - with defender Gary Cahill opening the scoring - that means four points from their final two games will book England a ticket to next summer's Finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Netherlands ran up double figures against San Marino with an 11-0 win as they moved to the brink of qualification.
Robin van Persie made the most of his break from Arsenal's early-season struggles, scoring four goals, and Wesley Sneijder and Klaas Jan Huntelaar added two each. John Heitinga, Dirk Kuyt and Georgino Wijnaldum were also on target as Group E minnows San Marino's goal difference slipped to -43 after eight games.
Germany qualified in style with an emphatic 6-2 win over Austria which could well spell the end of Dietmar Constantini's reign as Austria's coach.
Germany raced into a three-goal lead within 28 minutes with Miroslav Klose, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski all on target. Marko Arnautovic pulled a goal back for Austria just before the break, but Ozil made it four just after the interval. Martin Harnik again reduced the arrears, but further goals from Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze completed the rout to take Joachim Low's men to Poland and the Ukraine.
France had to cling on in Tirana as three points thanks to a 2-1 win against Albania moved Laurent Blanc's team closer to an automatic place. Early goals from Karim Benzema and Yann M'Vila looked to have put Les Bleus in complete control inside the first quarter of the match, but Albania rocked the visitors with a reply from Erjon Bogdani in the opening minute of the second half.
Goals from Steve Morison and captain Aaron Ramsey gave Wales the first win, 2-1, of their qualifying campaign over Montenegro at Cardiff City Stadium. The home side turned in their best performance under Gary Speed and were unrecognisable from the side that lost so miserably to Australia last month.
LA Galaxy newcomer Robbie Keane fluffed his lines as he passed up a glorious opportunity to keep the Republic of Ireland firmly in the race. The 31-year-old, who missed a penalty in the reverse fixture in October, headed wide from just five yards with 16 minutes of a distinctly uncomfortable 0-0 contest against Slovakia remaining to let slip a victory his side never really deserved.
A horror back-pass from Steven Davis condemned Northern Ireland to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Serbia . With the score locked at 0-0 and Nigel Worthington's side finally starting to get on top after their opponents had dominated the first period, the Rangers midfielder gifted Marko Pantelic a 67th-minute goal.
Antonio Cassano scored the only goal for Italy at the Faroe Islands as they moved a step closer to qualifying. Cassano struck in the 11th minute in Torshavn as the Azzurri remained unbeaten in Group C. The hosts were unlucky not to equalise in the 71st minute when Christian Holst's effort rebounded off the crossbar with Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon beaten.
Hungary drew level on points with second-placed Sweden after snatching a late winner over the Scandinavian side in Budapest. The clash had looked set to finish in a draw after Christian Wilhelmsson's 60th-minute goal cancelled out Imre Szabics' opener for Hungary just before half-time. However, there was to be a late twist as Hungary, who missed an early penalty through Tamas Hajnal, claimed a 2-1 victory thanks to Gergely Rudolf's 90th-minute clincher.
Estonia remained in with a shout of second spot after a 2-1 win in Slovenia. Konstantin Vassiljev's first-half penalty looked for a long time as though it would be enough to earn the visitors victory. Tim Matavz, who had missed two good chances, eventually equalised in the 77th minute but parity lasted just three minutes before Ats Purje netted the winner.
Russia passed the first test in a crucial week as they edged out FYR Macedonia 1-0 in Moscow.
While the performance was perhaps less than convincing, the result is all that will matter as Russia hope to emerge from this latest round of fixtures top of Group B. Igor Semshov's 41st-minute strike was enough to win this one and they will now turn their attention to the visit of fellow challengers, the Republic of Ireland, on Tuesday.
Armenia recorded a 3-0 away win against the pool's bottom side Andorra. Marcos Pizzelli gave the visitors the lead 10 minutes before half-time at the Estadi Comunal in Andorra la Vella and Gevorg Ghazaryan doubled their advantage in the 57th minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan completed the scoring with a stoppage-time penalty at the end of the game after Andorra defender Ildefons Lima was sent off in conceding the spot-kick.
Group F leaders Greece maintained their unbeaten record in qualifying as Sotiris Ninis' goal on the hour secured a 1-0 victory over Israel in Tel Aviv. The visitors went into the game without having lost under coach Fernando Santos and that streak continued as they made it five wins and two draws from their seven games so far.
Croatia kept themselves just a point behind Greece with a routine 3-1 win in Malta. Ognjen Vukojevic and Milan Badelj gave the visitors a two-goal lead in little over half an hour. Michael Mifsud's goal briefly threatened a shock comeback but, after Croatia had twice hit the woodwork, defender Dejan Lovren made the game safe.
Latvia ended any faint hopes Georgia may have had of making a late push for second place in Group F as they pulled off a surprise 1-0 win in Tbilisi, Aleksandrs Cauna's 64th-minute free-kick proving decisive.
Kasper Hamalainen scored twice as Finland cruised to a 4-1 Group E triumph over Moldova in Helsinki. The Djurgarden midfielder put the hosts two goals to the good in a one-sided first half and went close to a hat-trick in the second period.
Mikael Forssell's penalty and Igor Armas' own goal put the result beyond doubt long before Serghei Alexeev's late consolation.
In Group D, Romania kept alive their hopes of reaching Poland and Ukraine as Gabriel Torje's first-half brace secured a 2-0 victory in Luxembourg. The Udinese winger opened the scoring at the Stade Josy Barthel in the 34th minute and then doubled his side's lead against the pool's bottom team on the stroke of half-time.
Bosnia-Herzegovina won 2-0 in Belarus in the first match of their double-header to leapfrog their opponents into second spot in the pool. Two goals in three first-half minutes from Sejad Salihovic and Haris Medunjanin did the damage for the visitors, with the two teams set to meet again in Zenica in four days' time.
Norway kept their hopes on track, although needed a late penalty to see off Group H rivals Iceland 1-0 in Oslo. The home side dominated their Nordic neighbours but appeared to be heading for an evening of disappointment until Mohamed Abdellaoui scored from the spot after a challenge on substitute John Carew.
Rauf Aliyev earned Azerbaijan a 1-1 draw against Belgium in Baku to dent their visitors' hopes of finishing second in Group A. The Belgians dominated the match but had only Timmy Simons' penalty to show for it when Aliyev found the target five minutes from time.
Armenia picked up their third win after easing past Group B's bottom side Andorra 3-0. Marcos Pizzelli gave the visitors the lead 10 minutes before half-time at the Estadi Comunal in Andorra la Vella and Gevorg Ghazaryan doubled their advantage in the 57th minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan completed the scoring with a stoppage-time penalty at the end of the game after Andorra defender Ildefons Lima was sent off in conceding the spot-kick.
In Group I, Lithuania and Liechtenstein played out a goalless draw in a match that had the feel of a dead rubber at the foot of the pool.