Kevin Keegan's England had been disappointing, having limped into second place on goal difference from Poland, with Sweden having won the group. Meanwhile, the Scots had finished clear runners-up to a Czech Republic side that had won all 10 of their fixtures.
It meant that both nations went into the uncertainty of the playoffs, where by chance they were drawn against each other, meaning that only one of them could make the main tournament, which was to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium.
The rivals met in the opening leg at Hampden Park some 14 years ago today with much more than bragging rights at stake.
Hosting Scotland started the brighter of the two sides, but on two separate occasions Billy Dodds failed to score when well placed.
His failure to break the deadlock was then duly punished in the 21st minute when Paul Scholes took control of Sol Campbell's lofted pass on his chest, before he slotted the ball beyond the reach of an advancing Neil Sullivan.
Then, as half time approached, Scholes linked with his Manchester United teammate David Beckham to double England's lead. The latter's cross from the right was met by an unchallenged Scholes, who powered a header into the bottom corner of the net.
The Three Lions were much more conservative after the restart as they successfully defended their two-goal advantage to take back to Wembley.
"We've started, under my reign, to play the way I want to play. We played fantastic today. I couldn't have asked for more. [Scholes has] got everything. He's a quiet lad, but he's one of those who believes that actions speak louder than words," said Keegan during his post-match interview.
SCOTLAND: Sullivan; Weir, Ritchie, Daily, Hendry; Ferguson, Burley, Gallacher, Hutchison, Collins; Dodds
ENGLAND: Seaman; P Neville, Campbell, Adams, Keown; Beckham, Ince, Redknapp, Scholes; Shearer, Owen