Wales's midfielder Gareth Bale (2R) celebrates scoring the opening goal as Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (L) and Belgium's midfielder Radja Nainggolan (2L) react during the Euro 2016 qualifying group B football match between Wales and Belgium at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on June 12, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK
Wales's midfielder Gareth Bale (2R) celebrates scoring the opening goal as Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (L) and Belgium's midfielder Radja Nainggolan (2L) react during the Euro 2016 qualifying group B football match between Wales and Belgium at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on June 12, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK

United Kingdom: Gareth Bale sent Wales striding towards a first major tournament appearance since 1958 as they beat heavyweights Belgium 1-0 in a 2016 European Championship qualifier in Cardiff on Friday.

On a raucous, muggy night in the Welsh capital, Bale capitalised on an error by Radja Nainggolan in the 25th minute to mark his 50th cap with a goal that took Chris Coleman’s men five points clear of Belgium in Group B.

They are also, crucially, five points above third-place Israel with four games to play and with only the top two teams certain to qualify, their 57-year wait since the 1958 World Cup is tantalisingly close to ending.

By beating Belgium, currently second in the FIFA rankings, Wales are also thought to have played their way into the top pool of seeds for next month’s qualifying draw for the 2018 World Cup.

They will resume their qualifying campaign with a double-header away to Cyprus and at home to Israel in September, while Belgium, beaten for the first time since losing to Argentina in last year’s World Cup quarter-finals, host Bosnia-Hercegovina and visit Cyprus.

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