Brazil and Chile are just a step away from the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after claiming important wins on Matchday 14 of the South American qualifying competition. The five-time world champions beat Paraguay to cement their position at the top of the group with four matches remaining, while La Roja earned a resounding win over Bolivia to climb into second.
Elsewhere Argentina came off second best to fast-improving Ecuador, Colombia edged out bottom-placed Peru while Venezuela and Uruguay played out an exciting draw.
FIFA.com rounds up the action in Wednesday's five qualifying matches in South America.
Match of the day
Brazil 2-1 Paraguay
Goals: Robinho 40, Nilmar 49 (Brazil); Salvador Cabanas 25 (Paraguay)
Cabanas' fourth goal of the campaign briefly threatened to end Brazil's unbeaten home record in FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Dunga's side were alert to the danger, however, with Robinho restoring parity with a fine strike 15 minutes later and Nilmar completing the comeback just after the interval. The 2-1 win all but assures the Brazilians a place in the finals, a place they can clinch if they beat Argentina in Buenos Aires in their next match. Problems are mounting for La Albirroja, meanwhile. Without a win in four outings, they have now dropped down to third.
The other big winners of the day were Marcelo Bielsa's Chile, who turned in another powerful display to overwhelm Bolivia 4-0 in Santiago. The man they call El Loco looked on with satisfaction as his side eased to victory with goals from Jean Beausejour, Marco Estrada and two from Alexis Sanchez, who paid tribute to Chile legend Marcelo Salas after scoring his second. La Roja have now gone seven games without defeat, an impressive run that has put them on the verge of qualification for the finals.
Another side celebrating an important win were Ecuador, who moved up to fifth in the table after defeating Argentina 2-0 in Quito. El Tri rode their luck at times, particularly in the first half, when Carlos Tevez missed a chance to put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot.
Walter Ayovi's spectacular header after the interval put Sixto Vizuete's men on the road to victory, though, and Pablo Palacios sealed the points to give them a genuine chance of automatic qualification. The Argentinians now lie just one place and two points above them, having gone winless in their last six games on the road and having also failed to win back-to-back matches since the opening two matchdays. Worryingly for them, group leaders Brazil are up next in September.
Radamel Falcao Garcia scored his first goal of the competition to give Colombia three crucial points over Peru, who almost snatched a point in a late rally but remain bottom of the section, their hopes of qualification having long since gone. Victory ensured Los Cafeteros remain seventh in the table, just three points behind Ecuador in the play-off slot.
In the week's other game Venezuela and Uruguay played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Puerto Ordaz. Goals from in-form duo Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan helped La Celeste into the lead after Giancarlo Maldonado had put the hosts ahead early on. But Juan Manuel Rey's superb free-kick and a miraculous late save by Vinotinto keeper Renny Vega ensured a draw that pleased neither side, with the Uruguayans dropping out of the play-off place and into sixth, and Venezuela slipping down to eighth.
Player of the day
Marcelo Elizaga (ECU)
The Argentina-born goalkeeper was the key man in Ecuador's vital win over La Albiceleste, stopping a first-half penalty from Carlos Tevez and somehow keeping out Fernando Gago's point-blank header after the break.
7 - The number of consecutive defeats Peru have now suffered in the qualifying competition. The Peruvians went down 1-0 in Colombia on Wednesday and last won on 6 September 2008, when they beat Venezuela by the same scoreline.
What they said
"This a cycle that is producing some very promising results and on top of that we are starting to mature as a team. We're excited but we haven't qualified yet. That's why we remain cautious." Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa refuses to get carried away after his side's big win over Bolivia.
Ecuador 2-0 Argentina
Colombia 1-0 Peru
Venezuela 2-2 Uruguay
Chile 4-0 Bolivia
Brazil 2-1 Paraguay