Scotland Under-21s suffered a potentially fatal blow in their quest to qualify for the 2023 European Championship after they lost 2-0 to Turkey at Tynecastle on Friday evening.
The slick visitors scored a goal in either half to claim a deserved victory that moved them ahead of their hosts into third place in Group I.
The result leaves the fourth-placed Scots five points adrift of the top two with just three games to play, including away fixtures against top two Belgium and Denmark.
Scotland – led by assistant Peter Houston as head coach Scot Gemmill missed the match due to Covid – almost took the lead in the second minute but Lewis Mayo’s header from a Calvin Ramsay free-kick was brilliantly tipped behind by goalkeeper Ersan Destanoglu.
Turkey soon found their way into the game, however, and they went close twice in succession, with Ali Akman and then Tiago Cukur sending headers narrowly over the crossbar.
In the 20th minute the lively Akman saw a powerful shot deflected behind by the head of Mayo.
The hosts were generally struggling to get forward in the early stages but they went close in the 22nd minute when Crystal Palace midfielder Scott Banks drove into the box and saw a deflected effort from 15 yards out well saved by Destanoglu.
Turkey took a deserved lead in the 28th minute when Firkin Bayir forced the ball into the net from a couple of yards after excellent work on the right Bans Alper Yilmaz to set him up.
The visitors went close on two further occasions before the break, with Alper Yilmaz sending a low angled shot agonisingly wide of the far post before Dogucan Haspolat saw a free-kick from 20 yards out tipped away by Cieran Slicker.
The Scots tried to find a way back into the game and Mayo headed over from another Ramsay free-kick in the 53rd minute.
Turkey nearly doubled their lead on the hour when Ramsay’s clearance from a Cikur delivery ricocheted back off his Aberdeen team-mate Connor Barron and almost rolled into the Scottish net.
Scotland left-back Josh Doig then saw a glancing header from Glenn Middleton’s corner brilliantly pushed away by Destanoglu in the 65th minute.
Slicker made a fine save to stop Cukur curling the ball in from the edge of the box in the 68th minute.
However, the Manchester City goalkeeper was helpless to prevent the Turks doubling their lead two minutes later as Kartal Yilmaz’s shot from outside the box took a huge deflection off Scotland captain Stephen Welsh and ended up in the net.