Ecuador's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ hopes were finally ended as Chile celebrated their qualification to the finals with a narrow victory in front of their jubilant home fans.
Chile came into the match safely qualified from the South American zone after last weekend's 4-2 win over Colombia, but the picture was rather more complex for Ecuador, who had an outside chance of automatic qualification at the start of play. But all the possible permutations were rendered moot as the visitors failed to find the goals that could have kept their South Africa 2010 dreams alive.
Humberto Suazo's second-half strike handed Marcelo Bielsa's side all three points, while Ecuador's misery was compounded in the final ten minutes when Segundo Castillo received a straight red card for an ugly challenge on Ismael Fuentes. Despite Ecuador needing a victory to keep their hopes alive, it was the hosts who comfortably controlled proceedings at the Estadio Monumental in Santiago.
Ecuador's only chances of the half arrived after 28 minutes when Christian Lara sent in a low cross, but the home defence cleared, while at the end of the half Edison Mendez flashed an effort just wide.
The only goal of the night arrived after 52 minutes when Arturo Vidal played the ball into the path of Suazo, who lashed home high into the net with a right-footed shot. The strike was Suazo's tenth of the qualifying campaign, making him the highest scorer in the South American zone.
Ecuador's frustration at going behind soon spilled over and in the 83rd minute they were reduced to ten men when Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Castillo went in with a studs-up, waist-high challenge on Fuentes that resulted in his dismissal.
The defeat means Ecuador have missed out on the chance of playing at their third successive FIFA World Cup finals, while Chile can now begin preparations for their first appearance since France 1998.