The sense of deflation was palpable. The Republic of Ireland's players sank to their haunches as the Austrian supporters massed behind the goal pierced the sub-zero evening with their celebrations.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men had almost been able to touch three precious World Cup qualifying points. They had almost closed the door on Austria. But hard luck stories have limited appeal and David Alaba's last-gasp blast, with a mere 90 seconds of injury-time to play, packed a brutal punch.

Ireland's mission to build on the encouraging 0-0 draw in Sweden from Friday fell flat. This was a tie against lower-ranked opposition that they needed to win. Positive results against such teams have been the lifeblood of Trapattoni's reign.

The post-match focus was downbeat, despite Ireland remaining in contention for a play-off berth in Group C. They had closed ranks in the second-half, with Trapattoni's determination to preserve what he had being signalled by the 83rd minute substitution of the striker Shane Long for the defensive midfielder Paul Green. Trapattoni felt his team had become stretched in the centre of the field.

There had been character from those in green against technically superior opponents, not least in the recovery from the soft early concession of a goal to Martin Harnik, which was precipitated by a lapse from Ciaran Clark. Jon Walters' first-half goals had given Ireland the platform to fashion positive headlines.

But having largely restricted Austria in terms of second-half chances, their inability to keep possession at the very last had sickening consequences. Harnik worked the ball to Alaba, the Bayern Munich full-back who plays in midfield for his country, and his fizzing shot flicked off the substitute Sean St Ledger to beat David Forde.

Trapattoni's regrets took in Long's marvellously crafted back-heel on 38 minutes that hit a post; a pair of second-half flicks on set-pieces that might have made the scoreline 3-1, and the Alaba deflection. But he lingered most painfully on Ireland's sloppiness in injury-time. "It's not fair play to waste time but in Italy, Spain, you go to the corners," Trapattoni said. "We had a free-kick and two young players play two-touch. We lose the ball and we concede. We could have finished the game. We missed a bit of experience."

The boos at the full-time whistle betrayed the frustration, and Trapattoni heard his future called into question although, as ever, he was not for turning.

"Why? We have the same table, the situation has not changed," he said. "We have been a little bit unlucky but not too much. Austria reacted well in the second-half. I am not satisfied with the draw but it was right."