A Doha double bill on Tuesday produced defeat for Qatar and a crucial win for Australia in the fight to seal tickets for the 2014 World Cup in Asian Zone qualifying.
First up were Qatar who lost a golden opportunity to move closer to the finals in Brazil after a 1-0 defeat to Uzbekistan at the Jassim bin Hamad stadium.
Sanjar Tursunov producing the match winner in the 13th minute, the 25-year-old turned well and smashed a volley into the net from an Akmal Shorakhmedov cross.
A win here, coupled with a loss by Iran against the table-topping South Korea later, would have moved them to second position in Group A.
Instead, it was Uzbekistan, winless so far in the final qualifying rounds with one loss and two draws coming into the match, who went second.
With five points, they moved one point clear of Qatar, who are now last, tied with Lebanon with one win, one draw and two losses.
It was a scrappy affair, played under hot conditions, with Qatar earning two and the Uzbeks three yellow cards, but Paulo Autuori’s team were not able to make inroads into the Uzbekistan defence after a bright start.
Later, at Doha’s Grand Hamad stadium, Australia moved to second in Group B of the final round of Asian qualifying with a 2-1 win over Iraq.
The Socceroos, who were stunned 2-1 by Jordan recently, desperately needed a win to move up the table to increase their chances of appearing at their third successive World Cup.
Tied at two points each with Iraq coming into Tuesday’s tie they now have five points to go level with Oman, who defeated Jordan 2-1 earlier in Muscat.
Iraq are now at the bottom of the table with two losses and two draws.
Japan, beaten 4-0 in a friendly against Brazil in Poland, lead the group with 10 points from their four matches.
Australia and Iraq shared possession in the goalless first half, but Australia had more chances of scoring. One of their best chances came in the 27th minute when Tim Cahill unleashed a superb left-footer but Iraqi keeper Noor Sabri Abbas brought about an acrobatic save to deny Australia.
And they completely dominated the second half, but it was Iraq who scored first against the run of play.
Australia had a couple of good chances early in the second half, none better than the attempt by Mile Jedinak, who got past the Iraqi defence, but his nudge past the rushing keeper went just inches away from the sidebar.
After another unsuccessful Aussie raid terminated, Younis Khalef made a perfect long cross to winger Mustafa Karim on the left, who headed it down perfectly for the onrushing Alaa Abdul-Zehra to slip it past Mark Schwarzer in the 72nd minute.
Abdul-Zehra had made his appearance just eight minutes earlier, substituting Muthana Khalid.
But that just galvanised Australia as they increased their attacks and Cahill, their talismanic forward, scored the equaliser eight minutes later when he headed home from a corner kick.
And the comeback was complete for Holger Osieck’s men in the 84th minute when substitute Archie Thompson leapt over the Iraqi defence and headed home a Tommy Oar cross.