BELARUS 0 NORTHERN IRELAND 1
Michael O'Neill made four changes to his Northern Ireland side to face Belarus on Tuesday night as Saturday's super-subs all started.
Josh Magennis and Conor Washington, who scored late goals in the 2-1 win over Estonia in Tallinn at the weekend, replaced Liam Boyce and Stuart Dallas, while Jordan Jones came in for Gavin Whyte on the right-hand side of a front three. Whyte did not make the 11-strong bench.
Corry Evans stepped in for George Saville in midfield for O'Neill's side, who are looking to win a fourth straight qualifier to start a campaign for the first time in their history.
Washington, firmly in the shop window after being released by Sheffield United, wasted little time in showing an attacking threat, dragging a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area in the fourth minute.
It signalled a strong start to the game from Northern Ireland, who were able to keep Belarus pegged back for large periods, applying pressure to the home defence with a string of corners and free-kicks.
Mistakes were creeping in at the other end though, with Belarus close to capitalising on a mix-up when Denis Polyakov sent in a dangerous cross which Corry Evans did well to head behind under pressure.
Craig Cathcart and Bailey Peacock-Farrell then had to scramble the ball away from two corners that followed before Polyakov tried a curling effort which was perhaps closer to the post than Peacock-Farrell realised.
But neither goalkeeper would be tested before the break as the sides went in goal-less.
Northern Ireland made a bright start to the second half. First a Jones cross from the left caused chaos as it span away from the goalkeeper. Magennis got a touch to play it back to McNair but his control let him down and Belarus scrambled it away.
But Northern Ireland kept the pressure on and Washington brought a decent save from Gutor with a driven effort.
Belarus responded as Lewis was booked for a foul on Igor Shitov in a dangerous position, but Stuart Dallas, just on for Magennis, cleared the free-kick with his first touch.
Barely a minute later, Northern Ireland's defenders converged on Belarus substitute Denis Laptev to block his shot from the penalty spot.
Just when it looked as though Northern Ireland would not find a breakthrough, Paddy McNair popped up with his first international goal.
The Middlesbrough man took the ball from Jones on the left, skipped over the challenge of Kisylak and drove the ball under Gutor.