A first-half strike by Miroslav Klose sent 10-man Germany to next year's World Cup finals as the visitors beat Russia 1-0 in their top-of-the-table Group Four qualifier on Saturday.
The striker, who is yet to score in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich this season, capitalised on a defensive mix-up and fired into an empty net in the 35th minute to put his team ahead after a clever pass by Mesut Ozil left Russia goalkeeper Igor Akenfeyev off his line. It was Klose's 50th goal for his country.
Germany, who have 25 points from nine games, will finish top of the group with second-placed Russia, on 21 points, still able to join them in next year's finals with a win in the playoffs.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov had the first chance of the game for Russia in the sixth minute when he turned well on the edge of the penalty area and shot straight at Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler.
The Russia striker was heavily involved in the early action and his eighth-minute volley wide of the post was the next warning to Germany that they were in for a tough night at the Luzhniki Stadium.
But the visitors held firm early on and a good combination between Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil carved open the Russia defence for the first time with the former's goal-bound shot blocked by the outstretched leg of Sergei
Andrey Arshavin then played a neat ball into the path of Vladimir Bystrov, whowas left with only Adler to beat, but the Germany number one made the first of numerous crucial saves to deny him with his legs.
Low's side went ahead in the 34th minute with Podolski and Ozil again linking well. The latter pulled the ball back from the by-line to Klose, who managed to dig the ball out from behind his stride and direct it inside the near post.
Russia now needed to score two to move into pole position for World Cup qualification and it was no surprise that they laid siege to Adler's goal in the second half. Kerzhakov was through again with just Adler to beat in the 53rd minute, but this time he was unable to fully control the ball.
He did, however, manage to lay it off for Arshavin, whose 18-yard shot drew a fine save out of Adler with Kerzhakov unable to react well enough to convert the rebound.
Adler denied Arshavin again moments later as Russia increased the pressure and the Germany goalkeeper was somewhat fortunate to see his save from Yury Zhirkov trickle just wide of the post and not inside it.
Germany had their backs to the wall and Boateng, making his debut, was sent off for a second yellow card in the 69th minute for a foul on Vladimir Bystrov. But Russia were unable to take advantage of their extra man on the field, although they were unfortunate not to be given a penalty late on.
The contact Michael Ballack made on Arshavin was innocuous enough, and referee Massimo Busacca was right to wave play on, but the Russians will have felt aggrieved when the Swiss official again opted not to point to the spot moments later after Arne Friedrich fouled Bystrov.
Russia coach Guus Hiddink sent on Roman Pavlyuchenko, who scored both goals in a 2-1 win over England in a Euro 2008 qualifier on the same Luzhniki pitch two years ago, and fellow striker Pavel Pogrebnyak after the break.
But the Germans held on to book their ticket to South Africa.
Germany coach Joachim Low was understandably delighted with the result and admitted that he would allow his team to celebrate their achievement in reaching the World Cup finals.
"I was sure all week the team would be focused and would play to win," said Low. "No team in the world can play for a draw, and that certainly includes us.
"We said before the match we had one hand on the ticket to South Africa and we'd be able to book our ticket ourselves. I think tonight they'll be allowed to celebrate a bit."
They also had chances after the break but goalkeeper Rene Adler made several fine saves to deny Russia captain Andrei Arshavin twice, Bystrov and Igor Semshov.
"Adler showed a lot of calm back there and incredible reflexes," said Loew. He made a very good impression all in all.
I'd pay him a big compliment for this performance."
Russia coach guus Hiddink insisted he would not dwell on the defeat, and would focus his attention on steering his side through the play-offs.
"Of course I'm disappointed with the result tonight but this team showed great character especially in the second half," Hiddink told a news conference. "We missed several good chances in the second half and I think a foul on Arshavin was 100 percent a penalty.
"We knew Germany are a strong opponent," he added. "But we still put in a good performance. We didn't take advantage of the chance and now we'll have to win the playoff in November."