Italy picked up a first win since lifting the Euro 2020 trophy by beating Lithuania 5-0, while Spain and Germany both won but Sweden were stunned by Greece.
Young strikers Moise Kean and Giacomo Raspadori inspired the Lithuania thrashing to strengthen Italy’s grip on first place in Group C.
The two 21-year-olds lit up the first half as Kean scored twice on either side of an Edgaras Utku’s own goal and a strike from Raspadori, making his first start for his country.
It was the first time Italy, who endured frustrating draws against Bulgaria and Switzerland in their previous two qualifiers, had ever scored four goals in the first 30 minutes of a match.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo inadvertently added a fifth when his second-half cross-shot nestled in the bottom corner, as Roberto Mancini’s side comfortably extended their record international unbeaten run to 37 matches.
In the group’s other game, Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s penalty save earned Northern Ireland a point as they fought out an often intense but ultimately 0-0 draw against Switzerland at Windsor Park.
Group B: Spain scrape past Kosovo, Sweden beaten
Goals from Pablo Fornals and Ferran Torres earned Spain a 2-0 victory away to Kosovo and dragged them back into automatic qualification contention.
Fornals produced a fine near-post finish from the angle on 32 minutes after smart build-up play from Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata.
Spain dominated the ball for large swathes of the game, but were almost undone on numerous occasions as their high defensive line was exploited by the hosts.
They were indebted to profligate finishing, in particular from Vedat Muriqi, who ran clear on goal but put his shot wide of Unai Simon’s left-hand post.
Simon then almost gifted the hosts an equalizer as he raced out of his box to meet a long ball over the top, only to get in a muddled with Inigo Martinez.
The Athletic Bilbao stopper was just able to scramble back and stop Florian Loshaj’s goalbound effort to keep Spain ahead.
It proved a crucial save as Torres went on to seal the win in the 90th minute from a counter-attack. After initially being flagged offside, the goal was awarded following a VAR check.
Sweden found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat to Greece to end their perfect start to the group, and now sit four points behind Spain having played two games fewer.
Captain Tasos Basaketas fired the hosts ahead on the hour before Vangelis Pavlidis doubled the advantage in the closing stages. Sweden pulled one back late on through Robin Quaison, but Greece held on.
Group J: Germany thump Iceland
Winger Leroy Sane scored one goal and made another as Germany made it three wins in a row with a resounding 4-0 victory over Iceland.
The Germans took the lead in the fifth minute when Sane played in Serge Gnabry to score, and after a lengthy VAR review for a possible offside, the goal stood.
The visitors added a second 20 minutes later when Antonio Rudiger was left unmarked to score with a header from a Joshua Kimmich free-kick.
Iceland almost pulled one back at the start of the second half when Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s curled effort hit the post and Albert Gudmundsson fired home the rebound, but he was offside in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
A constant threat with his quick dribbling and precise passing, Sane effectively killed the game off when he rifled the ball into the roof of the net after another flowing German attack 11 minutes into the second half.
Kai Havertz wasted a three-on-one opportunity by firing narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy and Timo Werner somehow failed to put Lukas Klostermann’s pass into an empty net.
Werner made amends by adding a late fourth that hit the left-hand post and bounced out before spinning back across the line to round off an encouraging team performance.
second-placed Armenia lost ground in their faint hopes of catching Germany with a 1-1 draw at home to Liechtenstein, with a goalless draw between North Macedonia and Romania also doing neither of their hopes much good.
Group E: Belgium edge Belarus, Estonia dent Wales hopes
Dennis Praet’s first-half goal secured a narrow 1-0 away win for Belgium over Belarus in Kazan to move them closer to World Cup qualification.
The midfielder’s 33rd-minute strike maintained Belgium’s unbeaten run in Group E as they advanced to 16 points, nine points ahead of the Czech Republic, who have played one game fewer, and Wales, who have two games in hand.
Praet steered a snap effort wide of Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Chernik after being teed up by a short pass from Alexis Saelemaekers, two minutes after Michy Batshuayi had the ball in the net but his effort was ruled offside.
Belarus, who did not trouble Belgium in the game, have now lost four of five qualifiers and sit second from bottom in the group.
Wales’ hopes of automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup were dealt a significant blow as Estonia ground out a 0-0 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Sitting seven points off Belgium with two games in hand, Robert Page’s team failed to create enough against a side ranked almost 100 places below them and missed out on a desperately needed three points to stay in touch with the group leaders.
Gareth Bale hit the woodwork late in the game on the rebound from his own effort, while Tyler Roberts was denied by Karl Hein when played clean through and Harry Wilson side-footed wide from a good position in the opening minute.
Group I: Albania go second with thrashing, England held in Poland
Albania moved ahead of Poland into second place in Group I thanks to a 5-0 thumping of minnows San Marino.
Rey Manaj fired the hosts in front with further goals from Qazim Laci, Chelsea striker Armando Broja, Elseid Hysaj and Myrto Uzini moving them a point ahead of Poland.
Hungary also moved into contention for a play-off spot with a 2-1 win over Andorra, and had to survive a late scare en route to victory.
Adam Szalai fired them ahead from the spot after nine minutes before Endre Botka doubled the lead.
But without more goals to show for their dominance, Hungary were pegged back through Max Llovera’s late strike, before holding on for victory.
England’s perfect start to World Cup qualifying ended in dramatic fashion, with a last-gasp equalizer grabbing Poland a 1-1 draw in Warsaw against Gareth Southgate’s side.
The visitors had been on course to make it six wins from six in Group I thanks to Harry Kane’s stunning long-range strike (72) but two minutes into stoppage time Robert Lewandowski crossed for Damian Szymanski to head in at the back post.