A tense Tuesday night of World Cup qualifiers throughout CONCACAF saw semifinal tables turned upside down, with two of the three top group spots changing hands on a wild evening across the confederation.
When the dust settled following the fourth round of semifinal action, only Mexico could rest easy, having defeated Costa Rica twice in the last five days. Perfect on twelve points from four outings, El Tri has clinched the first of six spots on offer for next year's hexagonal.
The other five spots in the region's final round remain up for grabs. Determining which nations will claim them is anyone's guess, with only Cuba mathematically eliminated among the twelve participating teams.
For the rest, it will all come down to a pressure-packed week in mid-October, when matchdays 5 and 6 will see games take place in all twelve of the semifinalist nations.
After losing an official match for the first time ever to Jamaica in Kingston on Friday night, Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. side came out firing on all cylinders in the rematch. A lone free kick goal by Santos-star Herculez Gomes gave the hosts the win in Columbus, Ohio, and put the Americans back on top of the Group A table with Guatemala, leapfrogging Jamaica on goal difference.
Level on all counts with the U.S. is Hugo Ever Almeida's scrappy Guatemalan side. While the Americans and Jamaicans fought it out between themselves, Guatemala was taking care of business against Antigua and Barbuda.Almeida's team reaped all six points from their pair of duals with the Benna Boys, including a hard fought 1-0 win Tuesday night in the Caribbean.
The series of results leaves a virtual dead heat atop Group A, though Guatemala and the U.S. hold the slimmest of leads, on goal differential alone, over the third place Jamaicans.
With all three teams sitting on seven points, though, it's still all to be decided in October. The Americans will be looking to take full points from their visit to Antigua and Barbuda to open match day 5, while the Benna Boys can still dream of a miracle to climb out of last place and make their way to the hexagonal.
Guatemala, in the meantime, is staring down a vital clash at home against Jamaica. That game could prove the best opportunity for the Chapines to improve their chances of advancing, as the Central Americans face a tricky date in the U.S. on the final match day.
Mexico may have run away and hid from Group B, but that hasn't made the foursome any less interesting for the other nations involved. With El Tri through to the hexagonal, there's still one more spot available for the best among Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guyana.
The Golden Jaguars, however, may well have seen off their best chance by failing to get points from an electric match at home on Tuesday. After a brilliant away draw to El Salvador on Friday, the host saw La Selecta snatch all three points in a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 win at Providence Stadium.
That means only a highly unlikely series of events could put the Guyanese through, so the second spot from Group B will likely come down to regional rivals Costa Rica and El Salvador.
After securing an important tie on the road against the Ticos on matchday 1, El Salvador, on five points, holds a narrow one-point lead over Costa Rica.
But with a visit to the Azteca on the docket for the final semifinal round game, the Salvadorans will be anxious to sew up a hexagonal spot at home when Costa Rica visits on matchday 5.
Anything less than a win on October 12 -- in what's sure to be a rocking Estadio Cuscatlan -- could prove fatal to El Salvador's ambitions of returning to the hexagonal.
Not to be outdone by the fireworks elsewhere, Group C is set to offer plenty of suspense of its own come October, as three teams battle it out for two spots.
With a 2-0 win over Canada at home Tuesday night, Panama regained the inside track to the hexagonal after dropping a close away decision to the Canadians on Friday.
For Canada, its first loss of qualifying -- indeed the North Americans were yet to concede a single goal in the semifinal round coming into Tuesday's match -- puts the Reds in a precarious position, third on goal difference behind a surging Honduras. The Canadians will now need to take full advantage of a home date with Cuba, before a challenging road match at Honduras to close out the semifinal campaign.
For their part, the Catrachos look to be coming into their own after eliminating Cuba with a pair of wins on matchdays 3 and 4. Honduras is set for a tough road trip to Panama on October 12, knowing that no matter the result in Panama City, it will still have a chance to qualify for the hexagonal when it hosts Canada on the final semifinal date.
That leaves group leader Panama, on nine points, as the most likely candidate of the threesome to advance. The Canaleros will likely need only a result at home against Honduras or a win away to Cuba on matchday 6 to clinch one of the remaining spots among CONCACAF's final six.