SHANE Long’s World Cup dream remains alive.

The Saints striker was ruled out of last night’s winner takes all showdown between his Republic of Ireland and Wales in Cardiff due to a hip injury.

But the Irish claimed a play-off place thanks to James McClean scoring the only goal of the game in the 57th minute.

As a result, Martin O’Neill’s men became the first side to win on Welsh soil in four years.

Serbia, who included Saints midfielder Dusan Tadic in their side, defeated Georgia 1-0 to win the group and book an automatic trip to next summer’s finals in Russia.

Long, who had been aiming to end his 24-game goal drought prior to his injury, will now have to wait until next Tuesday to see who the Irish are paired with in the play-offs.

Two of his St Mary’s colleagues are also in the play-offs - Steven Davis with Northern Ireland and Manolo Gabbiadini with Italy.

Gabbiadini came on as a late sub - there was only a minute left when he was introduced - as Italy finished their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win in Albania last night.

Tadic was taken off in the 89th minute as Serbia finished their campaign with victory.