Having made an impressive start to their ECQ campaign with 10 points from their opening four matches, Slovakia appeared well-set in their pursuit of a third consecutive appearance at the European Championship finals.
The visit of leaders Portugal, however, promised to be a stern test of the Falcons’ credentials, and it was the visitors who edged a closely-fought opening 20 minutes, with Bruno Fernandes seeing an early effort thwarted by Martin Dubravka in the Slovakia goal.
Armed with the momentum, Roberto Martinez’s side continued to probe for an opener as the first half progressed, but clear-cut chances came at a premium as the hosts’ rearguard held firm under pressure.
Not to be denied, Portugal finally found the breakthrough three minutes before the break, with Fernandes dribbling past a couple of defenders and firing a superb angled strike into the far corner to give the Selecao a deserved lead at the interval.
Undeterred by that setback, Slovakia emerged after the restart desperate to gain a foothold in the contest. Veteran defender Peter Pekarik saw a dangerous effort well-saved by Diogo Costa, while at the other end, the visitors came close to doubling their advantage when Dubravka denied Joao Cancelo from range.
Yet to concede a goal under Martinez, Portugal looked comfortable at the back as they chased a second to put the match to bed, but Dúbravka again came to his side’s rescue, saving brilliantly from Cristiano Ronaldo.
With the scoreline tantalisingly poised heading into the final 15 minutes, the hosts continued to search for a late leveller, however, Milan Skriniar spurned their best opportunity late on as Portugal held on to secure a vital win to move five points clear at the top of Group J at the halfway stage of qualifying.
As for Slovakia, Francesco Calzona’s side will be desperate to return to winning ways when they face Liechtenstein on Monday.
Flashscore Man of the Match: Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)
The Bosnians had the ever-reliable Edin Dzeko to thank for their opener, before an own goal settled the game.
Turkey drop points, Croatia five-star
Bruno Petkovic netted a brace for the hosts in a game that also saw Luka Ivanusec, Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic also get on the scoresheet.
Artak Dashyan opened the scoring for the visitors before Bertug Yildirim saved Turkish blushes with an 88th-minute equaliser.