(Reuters) - Armenia struck two goals inside the final four minutes for a 3-2 victory over Romania in Yerevan on Wednesday to make it three wins out of three and take top spot in European World Cup qualifying Group J.
The game was a throwback to pre-COVID-19 days with a loud crowd of more than 4,000 allowed into the Republican Stadium and they celebrated wildly at the final whistle of a dramatic win for Armenia, who have never qualified for a major tournament.
Armenia, ranked 99th in the world, had beaten Liechtenstein and Iceland before taking on a Romania side viewed as strong candidates to make the play-offs behind group favourites Germany.
Eduard Spertsyan put Armenia ahead in the 56th minute but Romania levelled through Alexandru Cicaldau six minutes later.
Cicaldau then made it 2-1 with a powerful header in the 72nd minute, which looked to have given the Romanians the three points before a dramatic finale to the game.
Romania's George Puscas was sent off in the 78th for a dangerous challenge, his raised foot crashing into his opponent's chest.
Armenia, with the home support roaring them on, looked to use their extra-man advantage to get back into the game and they did so, in the 87th minute, levelling through Varazdat Haroyan who volleyed in a Tigran Barseghyan cross.
Television replays suggested the goal was offside but, with no VAR in use, the Romanian appeals were to no avail and their night was to get worse.
In the 89th minute, Alexandru Cretu was ruled to have impeded Spertsyan and amid the noise and excitement Barseghyan calmly converted the winner from the spot.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Fallon)