That was followed by a 3-0 win over group whipping boys Luxembourg.
A tough 1-1 draw at home to Slovenia proved which teams were the strongest in the group and Russia would also struggle to a 1-0 win over the much improved Faroe Islands.
Another tight win away in Yugoslavia followed, although the Russians could only force a draw when the sides played their second match in June 2001.
Despite having established themselves as one of the strongest sides in the group, Russia found their away trip to Luxembourg testing, and only managed to clinch a narrow 2-1 win.
The defeat in Slovenia followed, which meant they now led the group by just a point.
But a strong finish, with crushing wins in the Faroe Islands and at home to Switzerland, guaranteed qualification.