THIS was a night to kick back, relax and revel in Scotland’s qualification to the European Championships. But Scotland being Scotland, they still somehow managed to shred the nerves of the Tartan Army. Ach well, would we have it any other way? Probably, but alas, as Scots, these are the cards we have been dealt.

And the cards Steve Clarke has been dealt have been expertly played by the Scotland manager throughout this quite brilliant campaign. Scott McTominay has been the ace in the pack. John McGinn, as always, is both Joker and the King of Hampden. Kenny McLean, with his iconic goal in Oslo, was the wildcard contribution.

Clarke shuffled his pack a little here, in part to reward those who have largely clocked up the miles on a watching brief, like Jacob Brown – who acquitted himself well enough, but blew his one big chance when it fell to him from a Nathan Patterson cross – and Stuart Armstrong – who lit up Hampden with a quite brilliant third goal.

The Scots had been behind twice, had clawed their way back, and as they have so often of late, gave their all simply to send their adoring public home happy. And they just about did that, even though a late Norwegian leveller pooped the party just a little.

While the evident deficiencies in this performance will be forgiven and forgotten by the Tartan Army, you can bet they won’t have gone unnoticed by Clarke.

I hate to be that guy. Really, I do. You know, the sort who gets the acoustic guitar out at a house party. But at the risk of being labelled Scotland’s biggest buzzkill, even on a night like this, we need to talk about our recent defending. Or the lack of it.

There are mitigating circumstances, of course. The old maxim about players becoming better in the minds of supporters when they are out injured has an element of truth to it, but the effect that the absence captain Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and goalkeeper Angus Gunn was starkly laid bare here for all to see.

That’s no slight on the ability or the commitment of the men who stepped into the breach. Greg Taylor is a very decent left-back, and in front of him on that flank was McLean.

But with the change in system prompted by the injuries to Robertson and Tierney, and having personnel getting used to one another, the Norwegians didn’t half make hay down their right wing.

Twice in the first half, the impressive Oscar Bobb got the freedom of Glasgow near the Scottish byline down that side, and twice the ball ended up in the net.

His first centre could have been defended better by Jack Hendry, who was outmuscled by Jargen Larsen, and the ball made its way to Aron Donnum to finish via a slight deflection off the static Nathan Patterson.

The second, a low cross to the near post, somehow spun and squirmed its way over Zander Clark from a toe flung out by striker Jargen Larsen and over the line at the back stick.

Ah well, what’s a party without a few gifts? And as the perfect guests, Norway reciprocated, Donnum literally handing Scotland a penalty in exchange for his goal which McGinn tucked away to draw the hosts level the first time, and Leo Ostigard kneeing McLean’s flicked header from a McTominay corner home to restore parity a second time.

McLean made his way over to the right with Armstrong switching to the left, but the problem persisted, with Larsen getting in this time and putting it on a plate for Donnum to restore Norway’s lead a third time, which he would have done but for a brilliant last-gasp block this time by Patterson.

After the break, the Scots still had problems down that flank, caused by the brilliance of Manchester City prospect Bobb, but they also had their ace up their sleeve as they crafted a stunning third out of nothing.

It was a goal that summed up this campaign, with sheer will and tenacity married to some quite brilliant quality. And it was mostly Armstrong who exhibited all of these qualities, battling away in the corner to wriggle free and find a pass to McGinn, who had the presence of mind to return it to him as he raced into the box.

Hampden held its breath, but Armstrong kept his cool and reversed the ball past Egil Selvik to nudge Scotland ahead for the first time on the night and send the national stadium into rapture.

McGinn picked up a knock to his back late on, which might have discomfited Scotland’s talisman a little, but it also allowed Hampden to rise as one and hail their national hero as he trudged off to be replaced by Ryan Jack.

Alas, there was still time for Scotland to be cut open down the left flank again, Ryan Christie refusing the opportunity to clean out Julian Ryerson, which allowed him to dink the ball to the back post where former Celtic man Mohamed Elyounoussi took advantage of Patterson’s slip to nod home.

Ach, well. At the end of the game, the rest of the squad and Clarke still took their own collective, richly deserved lap of honour, doing the commercial department a wee turn in the process by wearing their official T-shirts proclaiming ‘We’re off to Germany’.

There is work to be done before then, for sure. And key players to return. But Clarke and his players had more than earned this night with what went before. Wunderbar.