Yet they were denied their highest championship finish since winning the final edition of the Five Nations as victories for France and Ireland on the final day left them equal on points but fourth in the table on points differential.
It seems scant reward for Cotter's work over the past six weeks but there is no doubting the Kiwi - who will be replaced by Glasgow's Gregor Townsend this summer - is owed a debt of gratitude by Scottish rugby.
He took over a side so short on confidence that they suffered a whitewash during his first championship.
But his third and final campaign has seen the team rack up wins over Ireland, Wales and now Italy, with 14 tries scored in the process.
After the game, an emotional Cotter said: "I'm very pleased, coming from a game at Twickenham that didn't fall our way, to keep a team try-less. The three wins is great. It's a reflection of the work these guys put in.
"These guys are gaining experience together. We always said last week would help us and those tough days have, in a lot of ways. We'll be looking at the World Cup in 2019 with a real desire to do well.
"I am not going to talk about legacies. I was a supporter before I came here and I'll be a supporter now that we are moving on.
"But it wasn't just me. Everyone has worked hard in this. I have great coaches around me, good people. It's just good to work with people and strive to move forward and get better.
"That is all we have done and now these guys, we'll look forward to seeing them put the jersey on and get out there and play again.
"Greig Laidlaw pulled me along onto the pitch at the end. My daughter was there as well. She found a way, got past the security guard. It was really nice, it was something that will stay with me."