Maloney's prevalent emotion was relief after he curled home a wonderful 89th-minute free-kick to get Scotland off the bottom of Europe's World Cup qualifying Group A, where they had fallen before Friday's 2-0 loss to Belgium.
The Wigan playmaker had lost possession five minutes earlier before Goran Pandev set up Ivan Kostovski to stab home an equaliser so his goal had more than a touch of atonement about it.
That might explain why he was so cautiously optimistic when discussing Scotland's progress following their second consecutive away win.
Scotland cannot finish third in the group unless there is a nine-goal swing on Serbia in the final game, when Gordon Strachan's men host Croatia.
But he acknowledged that they had not played well in the first half of the campaign, during which they drew with Macedonia and lost 2-1 to Wales at Hampden.
The 30-year-old told Press Association Sport: "It's difficult, because we started the group so poorly. We played Macedonia at Hampden and they were probably the better side so to come here and reverse the trend is pleasing.
"The last three or four games have been a bit of improvement.
"Friday was very difficult against Belgium. I think there is a fair gulf there. But there is slight improvements.
"The Wales game was a pretty bad performance at Hampden. It was probably as bad as I have been involved in.
"There was definite improvement needed and I think slowly we have done that."
Maloney had only scored once in 30 previous internationals, also a free-kick, in a 2-0 European Championship qualifying win over the Faroe Islands in June 2007.
And he had vowed to improve that record in the past week.
"It's definitely something I have thought of," the former Celtic player said. "I should have scored another one a bit earlier on when I cut back on my left foot.
"But it's a nice start and I would like to try to continue that."