Paddy McNair's hopes of playing World Cup football next year came to an end in Bulgaria on Tuesday evening.
Northern Ireland had to win the game in Sofia and hope other results went their way to stay in contention in their qualifying group - but two second half goals ended their hopes and condemned them to defeat.
Conor Washington did give Ian Baraclough's side the lead in Bulgaria and McNair was denied from close range with a header, but the visitors responded with two Todor Nedelev goals in the space of 10 second-half minutes to seal a decisive victory.
McNair clocked up another 90 minutes in the game, starting in midfield before reverting to right wing-back in a second-half re-shuffle.
Northern Ireland still face games against Lithuania and Italy in Belfast in November, but qualification is now firmly out of reach.