Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Portugal with a speedy hat-trick to avoid a World Cup qualifying slip-up in Northern Ireland. The visitors were in serious danger of being knocked off the top of group F, after second-place Russia had earlier thumped Luxembourg 4-1, as they found themselves trailing 2-1 to the hosts in Belfast. Northern Ireland had previous form for upsets having stunned Russia 1-0 last month and it looked like they were heading for another when Portugal's Helder Postiga was shown a straight red card for a headbutt on Gareth McAuley just before half-time. Northern Ireland, already out of qualifying contention, made the man advantage count early in the second half when Jamie Ward scored after a corner but Portugal's fortunes turned when Kevin Brunt was shown a second yellow to make it 10 against 10. Then followed 15 minutes of trademark Ronaldo brilliance as he headed in two goals and scored another from a free kick to turn the match around and put Portugal on 17 points from eight games with Russia on 15 having played one game fewer. Group E leaders Switzerland let slip a 4-1 lead to draw 4-4 with Iceland, allowing second-placed Norway to close the gap on them to four points after they beat Cyprus 2-0. The Netherlands also had defensive questions to answer after they saw a first-minute lead secured by Arjen Robben evaporate in Tallinn where they stood seconds away from an embarrassing 2-1 defeat after a Konstantin Vassiljev double for the hosts. The Dutch, who until this game had a perfect record of six wins from six matches, snatched a point in the third minute of stoppage time when Raio Piiroja was sent off and a penalty was awarded, which Robin van Persie converted. "We know we are better so it makes it a frustrating evening," Robben said with his side on 19 points from seven games - a six-point lead over Romania, who leapfrogged Hungary into second place after beating them 3-0 at home. "We have to be a little down on ourselves if we lead in the first minute and then walk off the pitch with the score at 2-2." World champions Spain were 2-0 winners in Finland as they tightened their grip on top spot in group I, with their cause helped by second-place France's 0-0 draw in Georgia. "We have a three-point lead now and we're in a great position to qualify," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. Group A pacesetters Belgium stretched their lead at the top with a 2-0 win away to Scotland as second- and third-placed Balkan rivals Serbia and Croatia drew 1-1 in Belgrade. Group B leaders Italy moved to within one win of qualifying for next year's finals in Brazil after a nervy 1-0 home victory against second-place Bulgaria, while in the same group the Czech Republic were stunned 2-1 at home by Armenia.