Italy have failed to secure automatic World Cup qualification but there was no such drama for Switzerland and England who are heading straight to Qatar.
The Azzurri were held to a goalless draw by a spirited Northern Ireland side and were forced into the playoffs.
Conor Washington even had a chance to snatch a famous victory in the closing stages as Northern Ireland frustrated Italy at Windsor Park.
The Italians also failed to secure automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup and wound up losing to Sweden in a two-leg playoff for one of the darkest moments in the Azzurri's soccer history.
This time, they'll need to get through two one-leg match-ups to advance in a newly devised play-off system.
Switzerland claimed a dominant 4-0 win over Bulgaria to ensure they finished top of Group C.
All the goals came in the second half, with Noah Okafor, Ruben Vargas, Cedric Itten and Remo Freuler adding their names to the scoresheet in the crucial victory.
England needed only a point to guarantee top spot in Group I and qualification but got a lot more - a record-equalling 10-0 win at San Marino.
This was England's biggest victory since 1964 when they hammered the United States in New York by the same score.
Captain Harry Kane netted four times - all in the first half, with two of them being penalties - to take his international tally to 48, which is tied with Gary Lineker and only five off Wayne Rooney's all-time record for the country.
Harry Maguire, an own goal from Filippo Fabbri, Emile Smith Rowe on his full debut, a first goal for Tyrone Mings, one off the bench for Tammy Abraham and a Bukayo Saka header would wrap up the win at a canter for the beaten Euro 2020 finalists.
Also in England's group, Hungary beat second-placed Poland 2-1 but it was not enough to affect qualification, while Albania won 1-0 against Andorra.
Scotland clinched a seeded position in the play-off semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Denmark.
Steve Clarke's team needed at least a point to be in with a chance to secure a home draw, but John Souttar - the brother of Socceroos defender Harry Souttar and playing for the first time since being sent off against Israel three years ago - headed in the opener for his first international goal.
Scotland then held the Danes at bay before striker Che Adams scored a late second to ensure a seeded play-off place.
Elsewhere, Austria stormed to a 4-1 win over Moldova, while Israel only narrowly beat the Faroe Islands 3-2.