Two own goals from captain Kakha Kaladze gifted Italy victory over a toothless Georgia in Tbilisi tonight to keep the visitors out in front at the top of the World Cup qualifying Group Eight table.
AC Milan defender Kaladze headed the ball into his own net in the 57th minute from Angelo Palombo’s stinging drive from distance.
He then fired past his own goalkeeper 10 minutes later after Domenico Criscito had swept in a low cross from the left, much to the horror of the home fans.
The 2-0 win leaves the world champions top with 17 points from seven games.
Bulgaria’s 4-1 home win over Montenegro kept them in with an outside chance of troubling Italy and the Republic of Ireland.
They had to come from a goal down, however, after Steven Jovetic had put Montenegro in front in the ninth minute.
It stayed 1-0 until Radostin Kishishev equalised on the stroke of half-time - and although Dimitar Telkiyski put Bulgaria in front four minutes after the break, it was only an 85th-minute Dimitar Berbatov penalty and an injury-time goal from Valeri Domovchiyski which made the scoreline appear so comfortable.