Gareth Southgate described Harry Kane’s last-gasp Hampden equaliser as a major moment for his England team as Scotland boss Gordon Strachan saw his greatest managerial result slip away.
The England captain netted less than 90 seconds before the end of four minutes of stoppage time to the end of a memorable World Cup qualifier.
There have been 114 meetings between the countries but none have ended as dramatically. England were on course for victory after substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took advantage of some weak defending and goalkeeping in the 70th minute after Craig Gordon had needlessly conceded a throw-in.
But Leigh Griffiths broke his international duck in sensational fashion as he curled home a 25-yard free-kick in the 87th minute — and then repeated the feat three minutes later. However, Kane soon cushioned a volley home following Raheem Sterling’s deep cross.
Southgate said: “It’s a huge moment for the team. The questions around this centre on character, on the ability to withstand events that go against you. That’s what we have got to show — we have to be a team that are never beaten. Maybe the clock runs out but you never ever stop.
“We did that and it was a real quality finish under pressure to get the point.”
Kane had come close on several occasions as Scotland sat in with a 5-4-1 formation, although the hosts improved for a spell after Jake Livermore’s deflected effort hit the post just after half-time.
Southgate, who reserved judgement on Joe Hart’s attempts to save the free-kicks, said: “We deserved to be ahead and then there was a mad minute and a half. There was a free kick we shouldn’t concede and then two moments of real quality from Griffiths. Great credit to him, under pressure he delivers two outstanding technical finishes.
“Then, most importantly for me, heading into injury-time 2-1 down, I don’t see anyone sink to their knees, I don’t see anyone hit the floor. I see body language which says we are still in the game.
“Overall the objective is to qualify and we are top of the group. We wanted to come here and win, but given the narrative of the game we have got to be pleased in the end to take a point.”
The England boss also felt it was an important moment individually for Kane, whose sixth international goal came just over a year after he netted his fifth, in a friendly against Turkey.
Southgate added: “I have a feeling I might have been sitting here talking about how long it was since he last scored for England if he hadn’t scored it.
“It was brilliant for him that in a pressure moment he executed a skill that he made look easier than it actually was.”
Strachan also hailed his team’s character as fourth-placed Scotland missed the chance to inflict a first Hampden defeat on England since 1985 while dropping two Group F points.
“It was one of the most emotional games in my managerial career,” he said. “As a player you just get on with it but as a manager that was hard work.
“It was like watching a heavyweight boxer against a middleweight. These guys are giants, they play at a different level to most of us, and they kept coming back. Their strength and power was hard to deal with, and we did it. And they keep coming back again.
“Whatever anybody thinks about us as a group of players, one thing you can’t question is their personality, character and commitment.
“That was beyond the call of duty at times because nobody, nobody in here or any supporter knows how hard it is to play against these players on a day like that. The power and strength and speed of England is phenomenal.
“And that’s what was so good about Griff, to put the work he put in, and then to have a free-kick when you are tired at the end of the game and be able to execute it, was phenomenal. He’s a great character, you know. A wonderful character. Strange, but wonderful.”
Strachan added: “I saw Scotland’s best ever free kick and then I see Scotland’s second-best free kick, and then I have a noise that I have never heard anything like before.
“I think we had three down with cramp as well. You don’t often see that. They pushed themselves to another level to get a result for this country.”
Scotland survived an earlier stoppage-time scare when Gordon saved Eric Dier’s free kick but Stuart Armstrong gave the ball away as the hosts broke, and the ball was in the net seconds later.
“I can’t be annoyed,” Strachan said. “It’s annoying for them to do so much and have a result that could have been one of the best results ever. One pass, one header goes somewhere else and we win the game.
“You try to protect yourself from the excitement but when we equalised I didn’t, because that could have been my best result as a manger.”