Craig Brown, the Scotland manager, was able to field his usual three- man central defence after Blackburn's Colin Hendry passed a late fitness test on his groin injury. The centre-half lined up alongside Colin Calderwood and Tom Boyd and they were soon pressed into rearguard action as the Austrians made the brighter start.
In the first two minutes striker Dieter Ramusch got in behind Calderwood and fired in a shot which Goram saved. Eight minutes later the home side forced three corners with the recalled Duncan Ferguson heading one to safety and the goalkeeper Andy Goram having to save another. Austria continued to dominate and threatened again with a further corner in the 14th minute when defender Anton Pfeffer's shot went wide.
Ferguson found only frustration on his first appearance back on the international scene after a 20-month absence as the Belgian referee penalised him three times for aerial challenges.
Twenty minutes had passsed before Scotland settled enough to push forward with any real conviction. During a brief spell of pressure, Gary McAllister sent over a swerving cross from a corner taken short, but the Austrian goalkeeper Michael Konsel was able to collect. Austria responded by going back on the attack and Adreas Herzog saw his long-range shot deflected just wide of the left-hand post.
Scotland's first strike on target came in the 30th minute when Ferguson laid the ball off to Craig Burley and his right-foot shot was held by Konsel. Ferguson was still finding it difficult to convince the referee that his challenges in the air were fair and he was penalised for the sixth time in the opening half-hour for another alleged offence on an Austrian defender.
Austria claimed a penalty in the 36th minute when Stephan Marasek threw himself to the ground with Burley at his side but the Belgian official was unimpressed. Seven minutes before the break a Ferguson knock-down was met by Ally McCoist on the edge of the box but his shot was deflected wide.
Three minutes after half-time Billy McKinlay sent over a cross but although Ferguson reached it, his header did not trouble the goalkeeper. Austria's Dietmar Kuhbauer went on a surging run toward Goram's goal and it took a well-timed tackle from McCall to halt him. The same Austrian troubled Scotland again after 53 minutes when he pushed forward but his shot was well off-target.
In the 55th minute, the Belgian referee issued his first yellow card with McAllister the culprit for a tackle on Heraf when it appeared that Scotland captain had won the ball. Ferguson followed him into the book in the 59th minute for dissent after yet another decision went against the Everton front man. McCoist appealed for a penalty when brought down, but the Belgian referee said no.
With 22 minutes remaining and Austria still seeking to break the deadlock Herfried Sabitzer replaced Anton Polster and almost made an immediate impact but his volley flew over the bar. Ferguson's frustration was completed in the final minute as ros to meet a John Collins' cross but his header flew agonisingly just over the bar.
In the same group Belarus beat Estonia 1-0 with a 35th-minute Vladimir Makovskyi goal.