Davis set up the only goal of the game on 74 minutes, playing an adroit chip to find David Healy on the inside-right channel and the striker rifled a half-volley through Paul Robinson’s hands. Until then the onus had been in defending and Lawrie Sanchez was indebted to captain Hughes who thrice intervened with England threatening in the first half.
The win helps consolidate Northern Ireland’s fourth position and leaves England needing to win their remaining fixtures against Austria and Poland. Things could be just as close in Group 8 where a last-gasp winner from Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Sweden a 1-0 win in Hungary to go top of the section. A mistake from Villa’s Olof Mellberg almost gifted a goal midway through the second half, but he recovered well and almost scored his second in two games shortly afterwards.
Milan Baroš did score in Olomouc, where the Czech Republic returned to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Armenia to climb back to second in Group 1.