Serbia reached the New Zealand 2015 Round of 16 after a 2-0 win over Mexico secured top spot in Group D and sent the Central Americans crashing out.
A goal right from the off by Nemanja Maksimovic put the Europeans on the front foot, before a stunning Andrija Zivkovic free-kick set up a fourth game of the tournament in Dunedin for Veljko Paunovic's side.
The group couldn't have been more finely poised, with all four sides locked on three points, though Serbia began with their noses in front and Mexico just behind on account of a single goal for and against. A win for either guaranteed progression, though a draw for Serbia was enough – which would have left Mexico hoping for a win in the group's other game.
Kick off wasn't even two minutes gone when Mexico's position became even more precarious, conceding a goal that will have infuriated coach Sergio Almaguer. A long throw into the area found the head of Sergei Milinkovic at the byline with El Tri's defence napping. He then flicked across the box for Maksimovic to nod in an ultimately simple but very cleverly worked opener.
Concentration looked to be hampering the CONCACAF champions' chances in the early stages, with passes going astray and lapses in judgement leading to a disjointed spell. However, Orbelin Pineda looked perfectly focussed when he watched the ball drop out of the sky and caught it sweetly. Predrag Rajkovic, though, produced a smart save low to his left.
Chances were hard to come by, with Serbia happy to soak up the Mexican pressure and strike on the break, as a point was enough to guarantee the Europeans a top-two spot. On one of their reactive forays forward Zivkovic almost capitalised on another long throw, but he only had to wait two minutes before taking advantage of a more traditional dead ball situation. In a tournament of fantastic free-kicks, he struck another beauty, curling into the top left corner from 25 yards.
Captain Erick Gutierrez looked to lead by example when his shot from similar range stung the palms of Rajkovic as Mexico unsurprisingly came out with added vigour. The keeper proved to be a one-man spanner in their works as he proceeded to make great stops from substitute Alejandro Diaz and then Gutierrez at his near post.
Another sub in Luis Marquez almost halved the deficit in some style, volleying spectacularly across goal, before he fed Gutierrez to shoot wide from the edge of the area.