La Albiceleste secured their first win in Montevideo for 33 years to book a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and send Uruguay into the play-offs for the third time running. Elsewhere Chile put an end to Ecuador's qualification dreams and Brazil finished top of the group after playing out a goalless draw with Venezuela.
The big game
Uruguay 0-1 Argentina
Goal: Mario Bolatti 84
An expectant capacity crowd assembled at the Estadio Centenario as Uruguay went in search of the win that would give them automatic qualification for the finals. Diego Maradona's side were in no mood for giving the home fans what they wanted, however.
Resolute at the back and with Juan Sebastian Veron directing operations in midfield, the visitors stood firm and snatched the points in the closing minutes when substitute Mario Bolatti steered the ball past Celeste keeper Fernando Muslera from close range. Reduced to ten men following Martin Caceres' late dismissal, the Uruguayans resigned themselves to defeat and a two-legged play-off against Costa Rica next month.
After seeing his side clinch only their second away win of the campaign, a tearful Maradona hugged his assistant Carlos Bilardo out on the pitch before dedicating the win to the 2,000 fans who had made the short trip to Montevideo.
Surprise of the day*
Brazil 0-0 Venezuela *
Though they missed out on qualification yet again, La Vinotinto ended a highly promising campaign by picking up their first ever point on Brazilian soil. On six previous trips to face* A Seleção* the Venezuelans had never experienced anything other than heavy defeat.
It proved to be a frustrating night for Luis Fabiano, who failed in his bid to finish the qualifying competition as top scorer, and for the Brazilians in general, who were held to their fourth goalless draw at home in the group, a strangely unimpressive statistic for the five-time world champions. Even so, they still managed to win the South American Zone for the second time running.
Chile underlined why they deserve to be in South Africa by easing to a 1-0 defeat of Ecuador in Santiago. On an evening of celebrations at the Estadio Monumental, Humberto Suazo did what he knows best at his old Colo Colo stamping ground by firing the only goal of the game and his tenth in the section, making him the Zone's top scorer.
For El Tri it was a disappointing end to a campaign that had promised so much. After failing to collect a single point in their final two games, they will now sit out the finals for the first time since France 1998.
Colombia dashed Paraguay's hopes of topping the group after signing off with a 2-0 win in Asuncion. Second-half goals from Gustavo Ramos and Hugo Rodallega took Los Cafereros to a notable victory and left them pondering what might have been had they not dropped valuable points at crucial times.
And finally Johan Fano's solitary strike allowed bottom-placed Peru to end a dreadful tournament on a high with a 1-0 defeat of fellow strugglers Bolivia in Lima.
Player of the dayMario Bolatti (ARG)
Though he only came on as a sub for Gonzalo Higuain with a little over ten minutes remaining, the blond-haired Huracan player will never forget his international debut. Given a holding role in midfield, Bolatti still managed to get forward and score the only goal of the game five minutes from time. "It just happened to be me but I still can't believe it," said the goalscoring debutant afterwards.
The stat 33 - The number of points Paraguay amassed in the qualifying campaign, their best ever tally.
What they said
"I can't say I enjoyed the game because I was aware throughout of how strong Uruguay were. I'd like to thank the players from the bottom of my heart because today was the day they made me a coach. I'd also like to dedicate our qualification to the people of Argentina, my family and to nobody else," Argentina coach Diego Maradona.
Peru 1-0 Bolivia
Uruguay 0-1 Argentina
Chile 1-0 Ecuador
Brazil 0-0 Venezuela
Paraguay 0-2 Colombia