In the big Battle of Britain, Wales reignite their hopes and come out on top against the Tartan Army in a must-win six pointer which leaves Scotland with a mountainous task to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals and Craig Levein pondering his next move.

Wales had beaten Scotland in five of their previous six meetings but had only scored once in 2012 and came into the game on the back of five consecutive defeats. The Scots had only won once in the capital city of their foes stretching back fifty years. The home nations have always had a habit of making things hard for themselves. It was so finely poised that you would have needed a coin toss to decide the outcome while such was the fine margins complemented by two low scoring attacks on view- leaving the abacus at home was an accurate judgement.

It is always seen as dangerous to look at football on paper although the outlook before proceedings got underway in Cardiff was grim and bleak to say the least for Wales. A defeat would have seen Chris Coleman become the first ever Wales boss to lose his first five fixtures in charge while the nation had not lost their first three World Cup qualifiers since the unforgettable 1968/69 campaign. To his relief, he managed to avoid those unwanted statistics. It didn't need a crystal ball nor a clairvoyant to forecast that the losing manager, if there was to be one, would be staring down the barrel of uncertainty. That displeasure fell upon Craig Levein.

Standing in the technical area at the full-time whistle wearing a drenched overcoat and pair of glasses covered in raindrops, he represented a man with a whole world of problems on his shoulders and little in the way of solutions. He has the unenviable task of galvanising a dejected team whose chances of making the Rio finals in two years time have been severely dented and preparing them for the monumental mission which awaits in Belgium on Tuesday night.

The boss was defiant in his stance and reiterated in his post-match interview that he will not quit the role however if this defeat is swiftly followed by a battering in Belgium then his position may become untenable. Where have we heard those words before? On a serious note, characters like Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown and Gary Caldwell are essential in keeping the squad's mind on the job and eye on the ball as the only way forward is to keep believing.

Steven Fletcher returned to the international fold for the first time in two years after burying the hatchet and settling his differences with boss Levein. He may have turned his back on his country before a Carling Nations Cup match with Northern Ireland in 2011 although he was quick to answer his manager's call this time around and did not disappoint. He was one of the positives on a dismal night for the Scots and raises the question whether Scotland would have won their opening two qualifiers with a fit and firing Fletcher in form and in the starting eleven.

The striker cost Sunderland £14 million in August and has been the only supplier of the Black Cats' four goals in the Premier League this season however he turned provider for the Scots with a series of superb knockdowns to feed the supporting midfield cast. This was apparent in the goal as the former Wolves man easily won the aerial challenge with Ashley Williams to flick into the path of James Morrison who duly did the rest. It was a fantastic display which was only missing a goal of his own.

Which ironically brings us nicely onto the goal he had ruled out controversially in the second half. Charlie Adam crossed from the left hand side for Fletcher whose powerful close range header found the net however the assistant referee's flag was raised as he either felt that the striker was offside or the ball had curled out- neither of which was the case. A legimitate goal inadvertently chalked off. It proved to be a pivotal turning point and one which Levein and Scotland will look back on as being decisive.

A 2-0 lead would have killed off the Wales challenge and all but secured an invaluable victory. The linesman in question should be subject to criticism and have to answer to his superiors after a decision that has cost Scotland which led to them surrendering their lead and losing a game in which they had to pick up maximum points. Whether it be disciplinary action or a telling off- something has to be done as that standard of officiating in a high-calibre match such as this is not acceptable. How many poor refereeing decisions are going to ridicule our home nations' chances at major tournaments?

It was distinctly reminiscent of the stonewall penalty kick that was turned down for the Scots against the Czech Republic two years ago in a World Cup qualifier in similar circumstances. Then there was the Thierry Henry handball which cruelly robbed the Republic of Ireland a place in South Africa while in Blomfentein, we had the infamous Frank Lampard moment against the Germans. Although, the argument of decisions evening themselves out comes into play whereby Wales should have been awarded a penalty when Berra wrestled Craig Davies to the deck although the German referee somehow failed to spot the incident.

Wales versus Scotland has its own chapter in the footballing history books stretching back to their first meeting way back in the 1870s. It is a fixture that always has a lot riding on it with two similar teams matching each other on many occasions in the past. It has thrown up some intriguing clashes over the decades like Anfield 1977 and Cardiff 1985 remembered as one of the saddest days in Scottish football's past after manager Jock Stein collapsed and died at full-time. The Scots have over three times as many wins as Wales in the one hundred plus contests so it was fair to say that the Welsh were overdue a result against their close neighbours having ended up on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline in their previous encounter last May.

Chris Coleman has had a number of issues to deal with some of which he knew about when taking over the job while others have arisen along the rollercoaster journey. Gary Speed had reinvigorated the Wales side and brought belief back in the national team which had been missing for a long while- his death last December was completely out of the blue and hit the players and Welsh community hard. Coleman- one of Speed's best friends- took over the reigns in January but had suffered four straight defeats including the testimonial match against Costa Rica and the opening qualifiers with Belgium and Serbia.

He had to contend with the captaincy issue last week, making the bold decision to strip young Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey of the armband and replace him with the more experienced Swansea City defender Ashley Williams. The 6-1 defeat in Belgrade re-highlighted the size of task ahead in terms of World Cup qualification for the squad with defensive fraility being the number one issue as the rigidity of the rearguard completely fell to pieces and was breached with constimmate ease by an average Serbia team- who had held Scotland to a goalless draw four days previously.

For the visit of the Scots, Coleman could not call upon regulars such as Craig Bellamy, Neil Taylor, Wayne Hennessey, David Edwards, James Collins, Boaz Myhill, Adam Matthews and Joel Lynch while he was sweating on the fitness of other key men such as Joe Ledley and Gareth Bale. However, he utilised his depleted resources to great effect, worked with what he had and master-minded a victory when it was desperately required. The ability of Wales player of the year Joe Allen, the guile of Ramsey and pace of Bale were the difference.

It was make or break for the Welsh- it was a tough examination in which they had to reach the top grade and that is exactly what they achieved. At last, it appears the ex-Coventry boss has the full backing of the players and he is starting to find his feet in international management. Long may it continue.

The Scotland team on paper is by far one of the best that the country has ever assembled- from goalkeeper through to the forward line, there is real home-grown talent shining through in abundance. The spine of the team consisting of experienced shotstopper Allan McGregor, defensive rocks Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra, the hard-working Darren Fletcher and tough-tackling Scott Brown as well as the potent finisher Steven Fletcher and opportunistic and instinctive Kenny Miller has the basics of a well-drilled side in place.

It's worth mentioning the absences of Steven Whittaker, Steven Naismith, Phil Bardsley, Craig Mackail-Smith, Graham Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass, Jordan Rhodes and Craig Gordon to name but a few which would further enhance the quality of the team's backbone.

The future of their World Cup 2014 hopes may hang by an even thinner thread now but the future of the Scottish national team looks incredibly promising with an array of home-grown talent breaking through. The current Under 21s side has some already well-established names including Aston Villa's Barry Bannan, Dundee United pair Gary Mackay-Steven and Jonny Russell and Celtic's James Forrest. They may not be ready yet to be thrust into the senior reckoning and perform in vital World Cup qualifiers although their progression through the ranks is extremely important as they won't be waiting in the wings for much longer while it is imperative that they continue to fulfil their potential at the lower levels.

Something that Craig Levein has done well which past Scotland managers haven't is the integration of players whose home is the Scottish Premier League such as the emergence of Charlie Mulgrew, Paul Dixon, Kris Commons and Andy Webster in recent months which can help to mould a team which is largely built around stars gracing the English Premier League stage.

The former Dundee United boss picked a strong starting eleven, as expected, in a 4-1-4-1 formation with James Morrison and Kris Commons occupying the wide positions, Darren Fletcher sitting behind to screen the back four and Steven Fletcher leading the line and leading from the front. It was a system that worked well for much of the match, allowing the midfield to stay compact and tight while support flooded forward when Scotland were in possession to assist Fletcher- the focal point of the team.

One decision which may have backfired was the inclusion of Alan Hutton at right-back. The ex-Rangers and Tottenham full-back has yet to feature for Aston Villa this season with fellow Scot Paul Lambert opting to ease in fresh new talent in young Matthew Lowton, recruited from Sheffield United over the summer. His lack of match practice was clear as daylight and was a huge gamble in a match of this magnitude- and especially when up against one of the world's best wingers. The pace of the wing wizard destroyed Hutton from the first minute to the last with Levein reluctantly accepting the tactical mismatch error afterwards whilst admitting that the Welshman was virtually unstoppable.

Perhaps the main influence of the decision was the familiarity of Hutton to Bale from their days together at White Hart Lane with Levein hoping that the full-back would have picked up some useful tips from training sessions aplenty with the Welshman. Maybe not.

After an opening period jam-packed with free-kicks, Scotland settled well in the first twenty minutes which would have been one of the main bullet points on the pre-match flipchart in the dressing room. They kept it tight in midfield and did not invite pressure, sit back and soak up an onslaught. The goal was well worked from a Scots point of view however Wales did not heed early warnings of the aerial threat of Fletcher, who knocked the ball down for James Morrison to finish. Things were going according to plan although a response from Wales was patent who pressed and probed but the Scots were largely able to restrict them to distance shooting and keep them at arms length.

The rejection of the penalty kick seemed to spur on Wales who were eventually awarded a spotkick for Maloney's trip on Bale. The Wigan midfielder clipped the tricky winger with the slightest of contact however the touch was enough to send the Spurs man to the deck. Maloney was candid in his reflection of the penalty decision after the game saying that the referee was correct to make the call but his boss Levein would have had other ideas flowing through his mind. Bale shrugged off his team-mate Ramsey to stroke home the penalty. 1-1 and game well and truly on with ten minutes left.

It set up a thrilling and pulsating finish which reached boiling point in terms of drama although Wales had the brightest jewel of the crown on the park and still hungry for goals in Gareth Bale. The mark of separating a world class player from an average one, as many a pundit will tell you, is producing something special out of nothing when your team needs it most and boy did Wales need what Bale provided two minutes from time. A twenty-five yard stunner into the top corner for a late winner- the ideal way to kick start the qualifying campaign and give Coleman a long overdue first victory for Wales.

A sixth goal in seven internationals for Bale whilst writing his name above the lights at the Cardiff City Stadium with a goal that will go down in Welsh folklore. It was the loudest a football ground will be all season long. It concluded the first part of a fantastic short series with the sequel due to be released on 22nd March next year. Be warned that it comes with more twists, turns, dramatic endings and the odd tear. Wales against Scotland is never a dull affair.

Both face tricky midweek trips abroad with Brussells on the Scotland radar while Wales make the journey to Croatia for one of their most challenging assignments of the group. Building on the momentum from this victory will be a huge factor while confidence and belief will be flooding through the veins of the Welsh squad. However, a defeat can quickly alter the mindset and morale can decrease at the drop of a clanger- quite literally. In contrast, the Scots will be physically drained, hugely disappointed with the result and feel hard done by. Heads will have dropped however while there is mathematically a chance of qualifying, they must persevere. The best way to erase a defeat from permanent memory has always been to recover in the next match.

Serbia, Macedonia and Wales have all been crossed off the list for the Scots with just two draws accumulated which is a bitter pill to swallow for fans who, before the start of the qualification campaign, would have been optimistic of recording six home points in the opening double header with the away match in Cardiff which followed being a back-up for notching points. Now Scotland must find a way to beat the two frontrunners in the group in Belgium and Croatia away from home as well as making difficult trips to Belgrade and Skopje with Wales at home to throw in the mix too.

The question that will circulate around many supporters' groups in the coming weeks is whether Craig Levein remains the man to take the team forward to bright and better things. Will he get the opportunity to turn their fortunes around or are his days numbered?