A night that promised much drama ended in disappointment for Scotland as a 3-1 defeat in Spain left them third in Group I and denied them a chance of a place in the Euro 2012 play-offs.
Two first half goals from Manchester City's David Silva and a David Villa strike were enough for Spain who top the group with a 100 percent record from eight matches.
Scotland's consolation came from a David Goodwillie penalty on 64 minutes after Victor Valdes had tripped Steven Naismith.
With Scotland's nearest rivals the Czech Republic winning 4-1 in Lithuania in a game played at the same time, Scotland needed an unlikely victory to keep their qualification hopes alive.
The home team were determined to show why they are reigning European and World Champions and settled into their passing game straight from kick-off, indeed it was two minutes before a Scottish player touched the ball.
As early as five minutes Spain were ahead. Valencia's Jordi Alba, on his debut, found space on the left wing to centre for Silva who finished crisply first time inside the near post.
And by the 15th minute when the Czechs were two goals up in Lithuania, one a penalty awarded by a Spanish referee, it was clear Scotland were going to get little from their trip to Alicante.
Indeed so complete was Spain's dominance, it wasn't until the 19th minute that they conceded a foul.
On 34 minutes Darren Fletcher came close for Scotland with a left footed shot and when four minutes later James Morrison shot high from a wide left position Scottish hopes were momentarily revived.
The Spanish however continued to create and Allan McGregor in Scotland's goal had to make a great outstretched save on 41 minutes from Santi Cazorla.
Three minutes later he could do nothing when Silva cut in from the right wing, exchanged passes with Pedro Rodriguez, and shot into the left hand corner to send the Scots in needing a second half miracle.
On 53 minutes Cazorla, Silva and Xavi Hernandez linked up delightfully on the right to find Villa in space in the Scottish area and the Barcelona striker easily slotted away his 50th goal in international football.
Scotland continued to toil and created more in the second half with substitute Goodwillie in particular providing some much needed spark in attack.
A fine performance from McGregor at the other end meant Spain were not to add to their tally, but 3,000 Scottish fans in the stadium and thousands more who travelled to the Spanish coast were left to wonder when their team would qualify again for their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.