Midfielder Taylor Saghabi, who scored a hat-trick in the breakthrough 3-0 win over Tonga on Monday, bagged the winner via a 39th minute free-kick on Wednesday as the Cook Islanders edged Samoa 1-0 at Loto-Tonga Soka Centre Field in Tonga.

Australia-based Saghabi, part of the Cook Islands diaspora scoured by 28-year-old Welsh head coach Drew Sherman to boost the sporting minnows, is now joint top goalscorer on the Road to Russia 2018 with four, alongside India's Sunil Chhetri.

More importantly, the two wins put the tiny island nation of less than 15,000 inhabitants, ranked joint 206th in the 209-team FIFA rankings, on six points and needing just a point against American Samoa on Friday to qualify for the second stage.

In the day's second game, American Samoa, once beaten 31-0 by Australia, edged Tonga 2-1 to keep alive their hopes of finishing top of the four team, five-day tournament.

They have three points, along with Samoa, with only the group winners advancing to the second round where the likes of New Zealand and Tahiti enter the qualifying fold for Russia 2018.

Winning the first round tournament also guarantees a spot at the eight-team 2016 OFC Nations Cup.

The Cook Islands, located at the far eastern end of Oceania and made up of 15 islands, first attempted to qualify for the World Cup in 1996, also in Tonga, but were beaten 2-0 by the hosts and 2-1 by Western Samoa.

Subsequent campaigns have proved fruitless, with fixtures a rarity. The Cook Islands' previous match before this tournament was a 2-1 loss to Tonga in 2011 in their failed bid to qualify for last year's World Cup in Brazil.

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