With the clock ticking towards the end of the action-packed encounter at the National Arena in Bucharest, Papp ended Irish brave resistance with two goals within five minutes with Romania going top in Group F.
Papp, who was named in Romania’s starting line-up for the first time in 27 months, sprang to life at the perfect time as Anghel Iordanescu’s men inflicted first defeat on Northern Ireland in the qualifying campaign.
“It’s a beautiful night for me and I dedicate the victory to my wife, my family and our supporters,” said Papp, who joined Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest on loan from Chievo Verona in August.
“But my best day was when I started playing football, not today,” added Papp, who scored his only international goal in his previous Romania’s appearance in the friendly against Slovenia in August 2012.
Iordanescu, who began his third spell as Romania coach last month, had to deal without the injured strikers Ciprian Marica and Raul Rusescu.
“I’ll remain a central defender, a right back or just play where the coach puts me,” said Papp, who played as right back though acting primarily as centre back.
“I’ll do my job as defender but I’ll not hesitate to score again if I have a chance.”
Papp opened the scoring with a superb left-footer from 10 metres after Garet McAuley failed to properly clear Romania captain Razvan Rat’s cross after 74 minutes.
The 25-year-old doubled the home side’s lead when he muscled between Aaron Hughes and Ryan McGivern to head home from a tight angle from Lucian Sanmartean’s delightful cross five minutes later.
“I’m glad for Paul Papp,” said Iordanescu. “I didn’t expect him to score but he gave us two important goals after we wasted many opportunities.”
Romania, who host Faroe Islands in their next qualifier in March, top the standings with 10 points from four matches, followed by Northern Ireland on nine points.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)