Narrow win sends Russia top
Alexander Kerzhakov put the visitors ahead after just eight minutes and that proved to be the only goal of a game they had been expected to win with more ease. As it was, the home fans should have been celebrating a share of the spoils but Ilco Naumoski was unable to covert a 73rd minute penalty.
Alan Dzagoev had the first chance of the game, chancing his arm with a long-range free-kick that nestled safely in Edin Nuredinovski's arms. Kerzhakov broke the deadlock five minutes later, collecting Igor Denisov's pass and smashing the ball high into the net.
Nuredinovski recovered quickly from that setback to palm away a Yuri Zhirkov shot two minutes later and stood firm to save an Aleksandr Aniukov free-kick after quarter of an hour.
By now the home goalkeeper was becoming quite a thorn in Russia's side, Dzagoev seeing a well-hit effort parried wide before Roman Shirokov and Andrey Arshavin joined the list of players denied by the 28-year-old.
Macedonia came to life with two attempts on goal in as many minutes at the start of the second half, Mario Gjurovski shooting wide from the left of the area and Nikolce Noveski missing the target with his header.
Buoyed by their increased possession, Macedonia became braver and spent the next five minutes camped around the Russia penalty box where defender Sergei Ignashevich twice cleared shots on goal.
The pressure almost told on the hour mark when Stevica Ristic headed against the bar. Ignashevich then hauled down Naumoski for the penalty, with Igor Akinfeev protecting the points for Russia by saving the resulting spot-kick.