Tom Lawrence’s scored his first international goal as Wales moved a step closer to a play-off spot after a 1-0 victory over Georgia in Tbilisi.
Lawrence’s goal came four minutes into the second half when his 25-yard shot flew past Giorgi Loria in the Georgia goal.
It was the first time that Wales had managed a victory in 11 games when their star man Gareth Bale had been absent, the Real Madrid forward missing out with a calf strain.
Wales started the penultimate round of fixtures in second spot, four points behind Group D leaders Serbia and one ahead of the Republic of Ireland – visitors to Cardiff on Monday.
Two wins would almost certainly guarantee Wales a play-off place next month, although favourable results in other groups could see four points being enough.
Wales had an early chance when Lawrence’s driving run set up a third-minute opening for Aaron Ramsey, who was winning his 50th cap for his country.
The Arsenal midfielder got the ball under control but flashed his effort wide.
Georgia were tidy in possession without troubling Wayne Hennessey and it was Wales who had the next big chance after 17 minutes.
Joe Ledley turned over possession and Ramsey and Sam Vokes were both involved before Joe Allen helped the ball onto Andy King.
But the Leicester midfielder sent into his volley into the ground and Loria was able to swat the ball away.
Ashley Williams’ well-struck back-pass gave Wales a moment of concern but the defender’s diagonal pass soon set up another opening.
King beat Giorgi Navalovski to the crossfield ball for Ramsey to sweep in a centre to the near post.
Vokes got across his marker to reach the ball first but he could only divert it past the far upright.
Wales’ wastefulness continued when Vokes laid Allen’s pass into the path of Lawrence and his rising shot failed to test Loria.
And they were almost punished after 38 minutes when Giorgi Kvilitaia met Otar Kakabadze’s cross well but sent it just wide of Hennessey’s far post.
Wales boss Chris Coleman had preached patience before the game saying his side might have to bide their time to find a breakthrough.
But Coleman did not have to wait long for Wales to take a second-half lead as Lawrence struck four minutes after the re-start.
Ramsey rolled the ball into Lawrence’s path and he skipped away from his marker before unleashing a thunderous 25-yard drive.
It was the Derby striker’s first Wales goal in nine appearances and he almost had a second moments later when he spied the far corner of Loria’s net but curled it wide.
Georgia pushed Wales back as they probed for an equaliser but the final pass or shot was lacking.
And Wales were a real threat on the counter, Ben Davies denied by a brave tackle before Loria fumbled Ramsey’s shot and Vokes almost poached the rebound.
Wales sent on Hal Robson-Kanu for the tiring Vokes after 74 minutes and he nearly made an immediate impact.
Allen played a neat ball into Ramsey on the edge of the area and his cross was just too high for Robson-Kanu to reach.
But Wales had a fortunate escape after 79 minutes when Georgia worked an overload to free Giorgi Merebashvili on the left.
Merebashvili went for the near post where his effort was kept out by a combination of Hennessey and Williams.
That was the signal for Georgia to really throw men forward but Wales held firm for a precious victory.