Mexico and the United States qualified for the 2010 World Cup with impressive triumphs on Saturday while Costa Rica and Honduras will carry their quest for South Africa to Wednesday's final matches.
Conor Casey scored two goals and Landon Donovan curled a free kick into the net in the 70th minute to give the Americans a 3-2 victory at Honduras, ending the hosts' eight-match home qualifying win streak.
The Mexicans started slow but netted three goals in the last 20 minutes for a 4-1 victory over El Salvador, which was eliminated from contention for next year's global football showdown as a result of the defeat.
With one match remaining, the Americans top the table at 6-2 with one drawn for 19 points with Mexico in second with 6-3 for 18 points.
Costa Rica blanked already-eliminated Trinidad and Tobago 4-0, the Ticos winning their first match under new coach Rene Simoes, the former Jamaican manager who replaced fired Rodrigo Kenton.
The Costa Ricans improved to 5-4 for 15 points with Honduras at 4-4 with one drawn for 13 points.
One of them will seize the third and last North American regional automatic qualifying spot after Wednesday's last qualifiers, which send Costa Rica to the United States, Honduras to El Salvador and Mexico to Trinidad and Tobago.
Either Honduras or Costa Rica will finish fourth and face the fifth-place team from South America, also to be determined Wednesday, in a two-leg playoff to determine another berth in the 2010 World Cup.
At San Pedro Sula, Julio de Leon opened the scoring in the first minute of the second half to give host Honduras the lead.
Casey nodded home the equalizer in the 54th minute and took a pass from Donovan to fire the go-ahead goal past Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares in the 65th minute.
Donovan netted his free kick and de Leon found the net again as the tension grew.
Honduras had a penalty kick in the 86th minute on a handball by Stuart Holden but Carlos Pavon, the all-time leading goal scorer for Honduras, sent his shot over the crossbar, squandering a golden chance for the equalizer.
A swarm of bees in the Salvadoran crossbar caused a delay at the start of the game at Mexico City, but the hosts took the lead for good on an own goal from Marvin Gonzalez of El Salvador in the 25th minute.
Tension mounted as Mexico continued to be denied but Cuauhtemoc Blanco broke through in the 70th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead and Francisco Palencia added an insurance goal for the Tricolores in the 84th minute.
Julio Martinez ended the shutout for the Salvadorans in the 87th minute but Carlos Vela answered for Mexico in the last minute of regulation time and the Mexicans became the first North American team to book a berth in South Africa.
An own-goal also opened the scoring at Costa Rica, with Salvadoran defender Radanfah Abu Bark finding his own net in the 26th minute.
Walter Centeno found the net in the 50th minute and Alvoro Saborio scored in the 61st and 63rd minute to complete the rout for Costa Rica.