Russia took a giant step closer to a place in next year's World Cup finals after recording a 4-0 victory over Luxembourg and then seeing nearest challengers Portugal drop points.
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Fabio Capello's men had lost their previous two away games in Group F, going down 1-0 to both Portugal and Northern Ireland, but rarely looked like slipping up against minnows Luxembourg as they moved three points clear of the Portuguese, who were held at home by Israel.
The match was as good as over by half-time with goals from Alexander Samedov, Viktor Faitzulin and Dennis Glushakov giving Russia a 3-0 lead.
Alexander Kerzhakov then wrapped up the scoring with a fourth goal midway through the second half as Russia made it seven wins out of nine.
They then received a further boost as Israel scored a late equaliser in Portugal, meaning Russia will go into the final round of qualifiers with a three-point lead over the Iberian nation plus a significantly better goal difference.
Russia travel to Azerbaijan in their last match while Portugal host Luxembourg.
Russia needed just nine minutes to take the lead in Luxembourg when Kombarov's cross from the left found its way through to unmarked Samedov beyond the far post and he curled a left-footed shot past home goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert, with covering defender Chris Philipps unable to keep the ball out on the line.
Shirokov, Alexander Kerzhakov and Aleksei Kozlov all tried their luck as Russia went in search of a second goal, which arrived six minutes before half-time when Faitzulin slotted home Shirokov's pass from the right.
The visitors were not finished there though, and on the stroke of half-time Glushakov added a third goal from a Aleksandr Kokorin assist.
With the points in the bag Russia could afford to ease off in the second half but they still notched a fourth through Kerzhakov in the 73rd minute, the Zenit St Petersburg marksman finishing off a cross from Kombarov.