#UEL: Spurs, Liverpool and Bilbao through, Dnipro out
The three sides were among 11 teams who celebrated reaching the knockout stages of the competition.
LONDON - The value of an in-form striker was underlined as Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Athletic Bilbao needed goals from pivotal front men to grab vital wins that booked places in the Europa League last 32 on Thursday.
Harry Kane's late strike gave Spurs a 1-0 win at Qarabag, Liverpool needed Christian Benteke to dig them out of a spot of bother in a 2-1 win over Girondins Bordeaux and Bilbao had Aritz Aduriz to thank for a 3-2 comeback victory in Augsburg.
Those three sides were among 11 teams, who celebrated reaching the knockout stages of the competition.
FK Krasnodar, Lazio, St Etienne, Basel, Schalke 04, Sparta Prague, Villarreal and Braga will all be in the hat when the draw is made for next round having booked spots with one group game to spare on the marathon route to May's final.
Last season's surprise finalists Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, however, were brought firmly down to earth with an early exit.
Dnipro made a surprise run to the final last term but their European adventure ended early this time when a 3-1 defeat at Lazio meant they could not finish in the top two in Group G.
There was also disappointment for former European champions Celtic as they lost 2-1 at home to Ajax Amsterdam to end their hopes of reaching the next round.
Tottenham's Kane struck in the 78th minute for his ninth goal in his last six games to ensure the English Premier League club can relax going into their final group outing.
The England striker had suffered a drought when he went eight games without a club goal at the start of the season, but questions about whether the 22-year-old could continue last term's prolific scoring run have been long-since silenced.
After Tottenham's Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli earlier hit the woodwork, the powerful Kane thumped home a header from a corner to move them to 10 points at the top of Group J.
Liverpool were also in need of frontline inspiration after they fell behind at home to Bordeaux when keeper Simon Mignolet was penalised for holding on to the ball too long and Henri Saivet thumped home from an indirect free kick after 33 minutes.
Benteke was hauled down in the area to earn Liverpool a penalty, which James Milner converted after 38 minutes, and the Belgian striker then got on the scoresheet with a superb turn and finish in first-half stoppage time.
Aduriz's contribution for Bilbao was even more dramatic.
The group stage's most prolific marksman scored twice in the final seven minutes to secure a comeback win in Augsburg that kept the Spaniards top of Group L and moved them safely into the next round.
Bilbao have flourished with Aduriz scoring six goals in five group games, while Augsburg and Partizan Belgrade meet on the final matchday to decide who joins the Spaniards in the last 32.
There was late drama in Germany where Schalke needed to beat APOEL Nicosia to guarantee qualifying but had to wait until the 86th minute for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to snatch a 1-0 win.
Having ended a seven-match winless run in all competitions, Schalke stayed top of Group K, ahead of Sparta Prague who also reached the knockout phase with a 1-0 win over Asteras Tripolis.
Basel progressed as Group I winners after they came back from 2-0 down against Fiorentina, managed by the Swiss side's former boss Paulo Sousa, to draw 2-2.
The Italians, who took a stranglehold with a double from Federico Bernardeschi, had to play for more than an hour with 10 men after Facundo Roncaglia was shown a first-half red card.
Sousa's Fiorentina now need at least a draw in the final match against Belenenses to make it out of the group stage.
Villarreal came into their game at home to Rapid Vienna having already qualified earlier on Thursday after Viktoria Plzen lost 1-0 at Dinamo Minsk.
The Spaniards celebrated with a 1-0 win to end the Austrian side's 100 percent Group E record with Bruno Soriano's late goal.
Borussia Dortmund, who lost 1-0 at FK Krasnodar, Molde, beaten 2-0 by Fenerbahce, Napoli, 1-0 winners at Club Bruges, and Rapid Vienna had already secured their places in the knockout stage on the previous matchday.