Alan Dzagoev’s deflected strike gave Russia a 1-0 in Slovakia on Friday, all but assuring the Russians of automatic qualification to the Euro 2012 finals.
Dzagoev struck on 70 minutes, connecting sweetly from 25 yards with a shot that rebounded off a defender and looped over Slovakia goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
Russia, top of Group B on 20 points, will look for a point at home to Andorra in the final game on Tuesday to cement first place.
Slovakia are all but out of it in fourth on 14 points after Armenia beat Macedonia 4-1 on Friday to go second. The Armenians will fight it out with Ireland for the playoff spot.
Roman Pavlyuchenko tested Mucha with an early pot shot, then followed up with a stinging effort straight at the Czech goalkeeper.
The Slovaks hit back with a swerving cross that Vyacheslav Malafeev acrobatically rose to punch clear with strikers lurking just behind.
On 10 minutes Malafeev completely misjudged a vicious drive by Juraj Kucka that ricocheted off his elbow and went out for a corner.
Pavlyuchenko broke the Slovakian offside trap, but took the ball too far wide and was unable to curl it into the net from the touchline as Russia dominated the early exchanges.
Arshavin hit straight at Mucha before Roman Shirokov just failed to connect with a knock down from Sergei Ignashevich.
Arshavin then played Shirokov through, but defenders forced him wide and his shot was saved.
The diminutive Russian captain went on to slice through the Slovak defense himself, aided by a lucky bounce, but again found only Mucha.
Miroslav Stoch had the hosts’ first shot in anger in the 25th minute, firing low and hard but Malafeev was equal to it.
Slovakia asserted themselves toward the end of the first half, and missed a chance to open the scoring on 36 minutes when Stokh miscontrolled a through ball by playmaker Marek Hamsik, allowing Malafeev to smother the danger.
Stokh whipped in a cross-cum-shot that Malefeev, crucially, held onto with strikers waiting to pounce.
Dzagoev smacked a shot just wide a minute before the break, sending the sides in all square.
Slovakia emerged invigorated, immediately forcing Malafeev into a fingertip save after Filip Holosko’s placed curler.
Arshavin produced an identical effort two minutes later as Russia to push back.
Russia spurned what was up until then the chance of the match on 64 minutes, as Shirokov contrived to shank Dzagoev’s cross wide with the goal beckoning.
As the visitors turned the screw, Arshavin turned a defender on the touchline to put Zhirkov through, but Mucha dived at the Anzhi Makhachkala player’s feet to clear.
Soon after Dzagoev’s opener, Pavlyuchenko flicked over Mucha and into the net, but the goal was struck off for offside.
The last 20 minutes were disjointed and edgy with neither team carving out a clear chance.
Russia saw out a nervy last 10 minutes with relative ease, despite Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss throwing on his son, Vladimir Weiss Jr., midfielder Karim Guede and striker Filip Sebo.
Erik Jendrisek blasted wide in the last chance of the match.
Slovakia: Jan Mucha, Peter Pekarik, Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica, Miroslav Karhan (Filip Sebo, 86), Miroslav Stoch, Filip Holosko (Vladimir Weiss, 73), Tomas Hubocan, Marek Hamsik, Erik Jendrisek, Juraj Kucka (Karim Guede, 73).
Russia: Vyachelsav Malafeev, Aleksandr Anyukov, Vasily Berezutky, Sergei Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirkov (Aleksei Berezutsky, 90), Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Pavel Pogrebnyak, 87), Andrei Arshavin, Alan Dzagoev (Aleksandr Samedov, 90).