Super substitute Lyndon Dykes scored a late brace as Scotland moved impressively top of their Nations League group with a crushing 3-0 victory over Ukraine at Hampden Park.
After a scoreless first half, striker Che Adams and midfielder Stuart Armstrong missed good chances before skipper John McGinn fired home in the 70th minute and Dykes headed twice since corners fellow countryman Ryan Fraser for a morale-boosting win.
The Scots were well beaten by Ukraine in the 2022 World Cup semi-final play-offs in June, but this time they had the measure of Oleksandr Petrakov’s side.
Scotland have nine points from four games, two more than Ukraine, and host the Republic of Ireland on Saturday before another encounter with Ukraine in Poland next week in their last Group B1 game when the promotion in Group A could be at stake.
With skipper Andy Robertson injured, Clarke was happy to return to Kieran Tierney’s form for his first Scotland appearance since March.
There have been two more changes since the 4-1 away win over Armenia in their last outing with midfielder Ryan Christie and defender Scott McKenna returning to the squad.
A few boos accompanied the applause the minute before the match in memory of the Queen, patroness of the Scottish Football Association, before a confident and fast Ukrainian side started the game in a threatening manner, stretching the defense local with a series of through balls.
However, in the 11th minute Scotland’s lone striker Adams netted a 16-yard strike saved by goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin, although the offside flag was raised, in error, according to replays.
Then a Christie cut from the left found no takers, but it did at least breathe some life into the tartan army.
The home team seemed to have settled in. Both McGinn and Christie headed the effort over the bar before Trubin knocked down an Armstrong shot but Christie couldn’t grab the rebound.
There was a blow for the Scots in the 25th minute when Nathan Patterson, who had injured his knee, was replaced by Aaron Hickey of Brentford.
The Everton right-back was taken on a stretcher with Ukrainian coach Petrakov to offer his support.
A brutal check from Valeriy Bondar’s ‘last man’ on Adams just before the break only earned the defender a yellow card from referee Maurizio Mariani to the anger of Scottish fans.
Bondar was booed every time he touched the ball after the break, but there was little else to exercise the tartan army on until the 57th minute when a powerful drive from Armstrong of a coupe from Tierney tested Trubin.
The Southampton midfielder then latched on to a Scott McTominay back heel but fired his shot over the bar.
Then Adams missed two glorious chances, heading a cross from McGinn against the crossbar before Trubin somehow stopped a header from another delivery from the Aston Villa skipper.
In the 68th minute, Armstrong headed a header from an Adams cross past the eight-yard post and just as frustrations threatened to boil over, McGinn took charge.
As a loose ball came towards him at the edge of the Ukrainian penalty area, the former Hibernian midfielder used his strength to gain control of the ball and drill it low in the far corner.
Adams and Armstrong were replaced by Fraser and Dykes before Trubin had to cross his goal to fend off a Tierney shot.
The two substitutes then combined from the corner for Scotland’s second, Fraser’s corner from the left headed in by Dykes.
And with four minutes left, Dykes came down in sensational fashion from another corner from Fraser to clinch a valuable three points.