Holding a precarious six-point lead with two minutes remaining, the home side were awarded a penalty just outside the Japan 22.
Russell, ever the swashbuckler, appeared keen to kick to the corner in the hope of another try. Stuart Hogg, his captain, thought otherwise and told him in no uncertain terms to kick for goal and put clear blue water between the sides.
After a bit of debate, the stand-off obliged and duly knocked over the penalty to give Scotland a 29-20 advantage.
Hogg said he had weight of numbers on his side when it came to convincing Russell.
“I don’t want to give away our tactics but he told me after the game he was only winding me up, which was fine because there were three of us against him and I like to think he was going to listen to us,” said the Scotland skipper.
“But it was never in doubt that we were going to the posts but he just thought he’d try and waste a little bit of time by winding me up – and wind me up he did.”
Gregor Townsend, the Scotland coach, also claimed it was a time-wasting ploy by Russell.
“He told me in the changing room - as he told Stuart - it was all part of his plan to take another 20 seconds off the time,” said Townsend.
“At the time I was thinking we should go for the corner but I thought the penalty was further to the corner and I backed our maul, which was going well, to put the game to bed.
“But then Steve Tandy reminded me that three points would put the game out of sight. So it was nice to see it unfold.”
Russell had another fine game for Scotland, setting up Hogg and Darcy Graham for their tries and finding his form in front of a goal after an off-colour place-kicking performance against South Africa the previous week.
The Racing 92 fly-half kicked four out of five against Japan, contributing nine points. His one miss was a conversion that struck the upright in the first half.
Russell missed three out of five against the Springboks.