Kyle Lafferty kept alive Northern Ireland's slim hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 with a goal of the highest quality.
The Burnley striker, 20, spoiled Sweden's hopes of securing a place in the
finals in front of their own fans by grabbing a superb equaliser in Stockholm.
He took advantage when Petter Hansson slipped in the 72nd minute and got away
from Olof Mellberg, before whipping a shot into the corner of the net.
It was little wonder Lafferty wheeled away in delight after his third goal for
However, he is ruled out of his country's next match against Denmark, after
picking up two yellow cards.
Northern Ireland need to beat the Danes next month and their final qualifier
against Spain to have any chance of completing a remarkable fairytale.
It would be foolish to bet against them, though, after a spirited display
following back-to-back defeats by Latvia and Iceland.
The hosts took the lead in the 15th minute when Mellberg opened the scoring
with a volley after a flick-on from Kim Kallstrom.
It came after Lafferty was punished for a challenge on Erik Hedman, and Tobias
Linderoth swung in the free-kick.
Northern Ireland almost equalised two minutes later when David Healy rattled
in a free-kick only for Andreas Isaksson to prevent him scoring his 13th goal of
Northern Ireland were grateful to goalkeeper Maik Taylor for preventing a
second goal in the 28th minute.
He made a superb block as Zlatan Ibrahimovic rattled in a shot from close
range following a clever through ball from Kallstrom.
Northern Ireland were refusing to lie down, and Healy's overhead kick in the
31st minute narrowly cleared the bar after he had been set up by Lafferty.
However, a mistake by Gareth McAuley in the 36th minute almost proved costly.
The Leicester captain mis-directed a pass to Ibrahimovic, and the striker
wasted no time in setting up Johan Elmander - who seemed surprised at finding an
opening and clipped his effort wide of the post.
The last thing the province needed was to be handing gifts to the home side,
who have become notoriously difficult opponents over the years.
Healy was putting in a hard shift - but after scoring twice against the hosts
earlier in the campaign, the Fulham striker was closely marked.
Northern Ireland almost drew level in the 60th minute when Chris Brunt's
25-yard effort went narrowly over the top, following a short free kick from
Given they were behind and heading for a third straight defeat, Northern
Ireland were still playing with confidence.
Healy tested Isaksson in the 63rd minute, the Manchester City goalkeeper
getting down quickly to smother his effort in a front of a crowd of 33,112.
Northern Ireland were being backed by about 2,000 fans - getting right behind
Sweden were playing possession football, and that did not suit their
supporters who wanted a second goal.
Instead, it was Northern Ireland who equalised through Lafferty.
Sweden almost regained the lead in the 84th minute, Kallstrom's sweetly struck
free-kick hitting the outside of the post - and Ibrahimovic should have scored
the winner on the stroke of full-time but sent a free header wide of the post.
Worthington claims his side are on track following back-to-back defeats by Latvia
'Of course we can get points from the last two games, ' said the Northern
'It will not be an easy game against Denmark but we will be looking for a
repeat performance of tonight.
'To come to Sweden, who are top of the group with quality players all around
Europe, it is great credit to us that we got a point.'
That seemed beyond Northern Ireland when Mellberg opened the scoring in the
15th minute when he volleyed home at the back post.
However, the province battled back and Lafferty equalised with a superb
individual effort in the 72nd minute.
The Burnley striker took advantage when Petter Hansson slipped then got away
from Mellberg before finding the corner with his effort.
Worthington said: 'It was a superb equaliser and I am delighted for him. He
works hard for the team.
'He has got it down and hustled the defender. Then he has had the courage to
smack it in the back of net.'
Lafferty was more modest about his contribution.
'Every goal you score for Northern Ireland is (special), ' he told BBC Sport
'I never gave up. It's really down to the team performance.'
Worthington was proud of the way the team performed after going a goal
He said: 'I thought the players were outstanding. You have to admire our play
'When we played Iceland and Latvia last month, the play was there but the
work rate was not.
'The players have worked hard the last few days and they have got a well
'The only blip in the first half was we were disappointed to concede the
'I was delighted with the passing, the work ethic.
'We said at half-time, as long as we keep it at 1-0, we might just get back
'It shows the players what they need to do without me harping on about.
'They can play good football and when they work hard the two go hand and hand
and you get results.'