Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 were left hanging by a thread after Michal Kadlec scored a controversial last minute penalty to give the Czech Republic a 2-2 draw at Hampden Park on Saturday.
Craig Levein’s side, hunting a place in the qualification play-offs, needed a victory to close the gap on the Czechs in the race to finish second behind runaway group leaders Spain.
They were in control when Darren Fletcher set up Kenny Miller to open the scoring a minute before the break.
But the Czechs laid siege to the Scotland goal in the second-half and got the goal their pressure deserved when Jaroslav Pasil headed home a 78th equaliser.
A Jan Rajnoch mistake allowed Miller to cross for Fletcher to put Scotland ahead again in the 83rd minute.
However, there was heartbreak for the Scots when Dutch referee Kevin Blom pointed to the spot in the 90th minute after substitute Jan Rezek went down even though replays showed Danny Wilson made no contact with his challenge.
Kadlec expertly converted the resulting penalty which leaves Scotland, who have played a game less, five points behind the Czechs in second place.
“We did so many good things today. We showed great resilience and played very well at times and to lose the match through circumstances we can’t control is hard to take,” Levein said.
“The players are very angry as you can imagine after that game today as they did everything that was asked of them and still didn’t get the points.”
Czech coach Michal Bilek felt his side deserved a draw and said: “We started well and the game was going in our favour. They had reasonable chances but we kept the ball well.
“Scotland have one more game than us to play so we can’t say we are in the European Championship finals yet.”
The Czechs soon made their presence felt when Milan Baros sent Petr Jiracek scampering down the left. The Galatasaray striker burst into the box to get on the end of his cut-back but sliced his shot over the bar.
Their impressive start continued when Tomas Rosicky floated a free-kick into the box which Rajnoch headed just over Allan McGregor’s bar.
The Czechs were claiming for a penalty when Charlie Adam appeared to barge Baros off the ball in the box but Blom waved away their protests.
Scotland had failed to put debutant keeper Jan Lastuvka, in for the injured Peter Cech, under any pressure but he was finally called into action after 30 minutes when he reacted quickest to smother a headed Miller knock-down for Steven Naismith.
The home fans erupted a minute before the break when Scotland took the lead against the run of play through Miller.
Fletcher won possession outside the box and released the Cardiff City striker who took a touch before unleashing a low shot that hit Lastuvka’s leg on its way into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The Czechs were dominating possession as Scotland tried to hang on to their lead and their pressure paid off in the 78th minute when Plasil equalised as he headed in substitute Jan Rezek’s fierce cross-shot from the right.
They held their lead for just five minutes when Fletcher fired Scotland ahead again.
A slip from Rajnoch allowed Miller to race down the left and he laid the ball across goal for the Scotland captain to roll the ball home from 10 yards.
There was a devastating finale in store for Scotland however as the Czechs were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute when Rezek went down in the box without any apparent contact from Wilson.
Kadlec made no mistake from the spot to equalise before Blom further enraged the home fans by failing to award a stoppage time penalty for a trip on Scotland defender Christophe Berra.