World champions Germany proved too strong for Northern Ireland as they recorded a 3-1 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Sebastian Rudy’s rocket after 75 seconds put the classy Germans ahead and they never looked back in this World Cup Group C qualifier.
Northern Ireland may have been beaten, but Michael O'Neill's side worked extremely hard in a bid to contain their opponents who, with this result, rubber stamped their place at the finals in Russia next year.
Now Northern Ireland must focus on the final group game on Sunday in Norway.
An injury time consolation goal by Josh Magennis will send them off in a positive mood and having secured second spot O'Neill's men remain well placed to make next month's play-offs.
Germany stunned the home side and the fans with a sensational goal inside two minutes.
The ball broke to Rudy some 30 yards from goal and his right foot thunderbolt flashed into the roof of the net – his first international goal one to savour.
It was almost 2-0 a few minutes later when Sandro Wagner got his head to a dangerous cross but a reflex save by Michael McGovern denied the Hoffenheim striker.
Germany, as expected dominated possession, and on 17 minutes Wagner was denied again as his glancing header smashed off the post with McGovern well beaten.
However, Wagner was not to be outdone with his third attempt on goal on 20 minutes – his fourth goal of the competition a superb strike.
He cushioned a pass from and turned sharply to whip a left foot drive past McGovern for 2-0.
There was little in the way of chances for Northern Ireland in the first half but they remained patient and on 39 minutes Corry Evans forced ter Stegen into a save and then five minutes before the break Kyle Lafferty found space at the back post but his header lacked any real power.
Germany again looked menacing at the start of the second half with Wagner’s cross met by Muller but McGovern scrambled across his goal to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Northern Ireland tried to gain the initiative with a direct and positive five minute spell but several good balls into the box failed to pick out a green shirt.
The moment all the home fans had been waiting for almost came on 77 minutes with Magennis using his strength to win possession and square the ball for substitute Conor Washington.
He let the ball run onto his left foot but with the goal at his mercy he lashed his shot off the top of the bar when a goal seemed certain.
Minutes later it was Germany’s Sane at the other end who should have scored but like Washington, lifted his parting shot over the target.
A third goal added gloss for the Germans and came four minutes from the end with Joshua Kimmich managing to squeeze the ball through a ruck of players at a tight angle.
The consolation goal for Northern Ireland came right at the end.
A deep corner was headed into the danger zone by Gareth McAuley and Magennis got the touch to steer the ball into the net in stoppage time.