Gareth Bale may have had an indifferent few seasons at club level but when it comes to Wales he continues to show his worth.

The 32-year-old captain again proved the Welsh talisman on Thursday as his double ensured a 2-1 World Cup playoff semi-final win over Austria, taking them a step closer to their first global soccer showpiece since 1958.

The victory in Cardiff means Wales now have a home game against either Scotland or Ukraine in June for a place in Qatar later this year.

Bale has played only a handful of games at Real Madrid this season and was criticised for sitting out the clash against Barcelona last weekend but he delivered yet another remarkable virtuoso performance on the international stage.

He fired home a free kick from all of 35 yards for the opener in the 25th minute, arrowing the ball over the Austrian wall with delicious dip that saw it sneak in between goalkeeper and post.

“The star man turns up and that’s the best free kick I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Wales manager Rob Page.

But Bale, winning his 101st cap, was not done yet.

Early in the second half he anticipated Austrian hesitation from a Welsh short corner routine, took the ball off team mate Ben Davies and slammed home to make it 2-0.

“I can’t think of a game where he didn’t play well. He’s carried this country,” said former team mate Sam Ricketts, who was commentating for the BBC.

“We are where we are because of him. We have a team around him but he’s one magical player.

“There was a time he’d score 90% of our goals. Tonight they’ve never been more important. When he’s in the team you’ve got the chance to win any game.”