The Saracens’ wing got the Dark Blues off and running with the opener against Samoa and had a major say as they claimed the vital extras in Kobe.
With three touchdowns in the bag, Gregor Townsend’s team needed just one more score for the additional point that would fire them right back into the race for the quarter finals.
But Maitland almost blew his big moment with six minutes remaining as he threw himself at the line from five yards out.
While the humidity levels in the air nudged 80 per cent at the indoor Misaki Stadium, Maitland says moisture on the ground was in short supply and he did not find the bit of slick turf he was hoping for.
That allowed Samoa’s Ed Fidow time to dart back and put in a tackle but thankfully for Scotland he connected knee first while dislodging the ball from the Kiwi-born Scotland back’s hands.
Referee Pascal Gauzere awarded the penalty try after viewing the replay – much to Maitland’s relief as he admitted he wasted a chance to land a try double.
He said: “I slid in too early but luckily enough the old penalty try was the saviour.
“Looking back I should have dived a bit later.
“Maybe if (Fidow) didn’t come in with the knee I’d have got it.
“But I’m just delighted to help the team win. I knew we had that performance in us.
“It was the reaction we needed and the most pleasing thing was that we kept them to zero points. That was pretty special.”
Maitland’s first try came 30 minutes in after Finn Russell picked him out with a cross-field kick measured to perfection.
Greig Laidlaw followed that up with the second four minutes later after more sublime work by Russell, while Fidow – who was sent off for a second yellow card as he clattered into Maitland – then handed Scotland their third via a penalty try as he dragged down a driven maul.
Maitland said: “We scored a couple during the first half and probably should have scored a third just right before half-time.
“But we had patience. We stripped it right back and used our kicking game to our advantage. Guys like Hoggy, Greig and Finn were just constantly putting Samoa on the back foot.
“Finn set me up for the first but it was no surprise. If I had to buy him a beer every time Finn sets me up I’d be broke. His kicking game is unreal and he put it on the spot.
“It’s not something we’ve worked on. It’s just the way the games have been going. With defences rushing you there have been backfield spaces to exploit.”
Scotland faced a pounding from pundits and supporters in the wake of last week’s dismal defeat by Ireland.
But Maitland said: “We’ve not worried about the criticism. We’ve just worried about what’s been said in that changing room.
“We know the support is there. You saw it there today – the support in the stadium was amazing.
“You’re going to see the flak through social media. I’m guilty of going on the old BBC rugby website just to see what’s going on in the rugby circles.
“Yeah you do see what’s been said but you accept criticism is going to come after a result like the Ireland game. It’s funny how things can change in a week.
“But this is just a start. We need to crack on and keep building.”