In-form Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-Min grabbed the winner as South Korea came from behind to beat Qatar 3-2 and take a step towards the 2018 Russia World Cup on Thursday.
After South Korea trailed 2-1 at half-time, the hosts levelled through Ji Dong-Won before Son extended his electric scoring run with the decisive strike on 58 minutes.
Uli Stielike’s team saw out the last 24 minutes a man down after Hong Jeong-Ho was sent off, compounding a miserable evening for the defender after he gave away a penalty for Qatar’s opener.
While South Korea march on in the final qualifying round, Qatar look unlikely to reach their first World Cup before hosting it in 2022 as they remain pointless and bottom of Group A after three games.
South Korean captain Ki Sung-Yueng opened the scoring with a low shot that skipped past the diving Saad Al Sheeb after 11 minutes.
But Qatar hit back and they won a penalty when Hong was booked for taking down Sebastian Soria. Captain Hassan Al Haydos stepped up and struck it past Kim Seung-Gyu.
And the Gulf state wasn’t done yet as Soria made it 2-1 just before half-time, flicking Rodrigo Tabata’s cross past Kim Seung-Gyu.
The hosts then protested strongly for a penalty when Ki’s close-range header struck Mohammed Kasola on the left hand.
After the break, towering forward Kim Shin-Wook nodded down a cross to set up Augsburg forward Ji for South Korea’s equaliser.
And Son, who has scored five goals in his last six games for Spurs, made it South Korea’s night when Ki picked him out and he curled his shot past Qatari goalkeeper Al Sheeb.
Hong was sent off for another foul on Soria in the 66th minute and from the free kick, the Qatari forward’s powerful header drew a spectacular save from Korean ‘keeper Kim Seung-Gyu.
South Korea have two wins and a draw from three games in final qualifying Group A, lifting them above Uzbekistan and Iran who play each other later.
In the other major match of the day, Hotaru Yamaguchi’s 95th-minute winner rescued Japan and their stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign as they escaped with a 2-1 victory over Iraq on Thursday.
The Blue Samurai were headed for an ignominious draw in Saitama when Yamaguchi smashed a loose ball from a corner through a forest of legs and into the Iraqi goal.
The result gave Japan their second win in three final-round qualifiers and boosted under-fire coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who has endured calls for his resignation and has suffered reported player unrest.
It also lifts Japan’s hopes of reaching a sixth straight World Cup at Russia 2018 as they draw temporarily level on points with Group B pace-setters Australia and Saudi Arabia, who face each other later.
As Borussia Dortmund forward Shinji Kagawa watched from the bench, Japan dominated the early possession but rarely threatened, with Hiroshi Kiyotake’s 11th-minute piledriver their closest sight of goal.
But Genki Haraguchi put the hosts ahead with a brilliant piece of skill as he flicked Kiyotake’s cross through his legs and beneath the diving body of goalkeeper Mohammed Hameed on 26 minutes.
AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda should have made it 2-0 a minute later but he hit his close-range half-volley straight at the busy Hameed.
Iraq nearly equalised in first-half injury-time but Alaa Abdul-Zahra’s volley, from a sweeping ball that dropped over his head, bounced kindly for Japan ‘keeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
However, Iraq rocked the four-time Asian champions on 60 minutes when Saad Luaibi nodded Ahmed Yaseen’s free kick just inside the post and past the diving Nishikawa.
Not content with a draw, Iraq poured forward in search of a shock victory, but it was Honda who very nearly grabbed the clincher when his header came off the post in the 80th minute.
And as six minutes of injury-time ticked away, Hiyotake’s cross rebounded to 67th-minute substitute Yamaguchi, who buried the winner to send the stadium into ecstasy.
The top two sides from two groups of six book their ticket to Russia, while the two third-placed teams go into a play-off series.