A classic night of international football ended with Uruguay downing bitter rivals Argentina 3-2 in Montevideo. The win, however, was not quite enough to send the nation into the World Cup, as Ecuador's superior goal difference means that Uruguay must negotiate a play-off in order to book their place in Brazil.
The three points put Uruguay level with Ecuador on 25 following the last game of the CONMEBOL qualifiers. Ecuador's superior goal difference, however, means that they claim fourth place and the final automatic spot for Brazil 2014. Oscar Tabarez's men will face Jordan in a play-off, to be played on November 14 and 20.
The Celeste were the only team on Tuesday night playing for something, as a win was vital to keeping alive their hopes of automatic qualification. But it was logical to assume that Argentina, playing against their ancient Rioplatense rivals, would give their all to ruin the evening for Tabarez's men.
For the second time in a week, the Albiceleste were forced to chase a match from behind. The executioner this time was Cristian Rodriguez. Blissfully unmarked at the far post as a free-kick was deflected into his path, Cebolla took aim and hit the back of the net with a well-hit effort that gave Sergio Romero no chance.
Stung into action after just six minutes, the Argentina response did not take long to arrive.
In what was their first real chance of the match, the visitors set up a delightful move for the equaliser. Rodrigo Palacio's cross was chested down by Augusto Fernandez, who made way for the oncoming Maxi Rodriguez to smash past Fernando Muslera and level the proceedings.
Any goal from the Newell's Old Boys hitman, as revealed by Sam Kelly, usually serves as a good luck charm for the team benefitting from his expertise:
The 4th October 2008 was the last time Maxi scored and his team lost. He's scored 52 goals since then.— Sam Kelly (@HEGS_com) October 16, 2013
In a roller-coaster clash, however, the score would not stay level for long. Luis Suarez went down after minimal contact in the area from Sebastian Dominguez, and the penalty decision that followed provoked disbelief from Argentina's defence. The Liverpool man shrugged off the controversy, and even though Romero got a hand to the kick he could not stop the jubilant striker from hitting his 10th of the qualifying campaign.
Maxi was not going to give up without a fight. The Uruguayan's ex-Reds team-mate scored a delightful strike just before half-time, leaving a gripping first period deadlocked at 2-2 with the promise of more goals to come.
In fact, it took Uruguay just three minutes after the break to once more put themselves in the ascendancy. A clinical break was capped by Suarez's defence-splitting pass to Edinson Cavani. Clean through with Romero, the Paris Saint-Germain forward went high and fired into the roof of the net, giving the Celeste faithful further hopes of avoiding the play-offs.
Argentina kept coming, and Palacio went close with a volley that flew just wide of the right-hand post. But it was Uruguay that looked most likely to score. In quick succession, Christian Stuani rattled the bar with a towering header, and Rodriguez fired in a looping shot that eluded Romero, only to hit the woodwork once more.
Those chances would come back to haunt the Celeste, as the win against their neighbours across the Rio de la Plata was not quite enough to put them directly into the World Cup finals. Argentina, meanwhile, suffered their first reverse since going down to Venezuela in 2011, but still held on to first place in the South American group and will be delighted with their campaign.