Uruguay's hopes of overtaking fourth-placed Brazil in the South American World Cup qualifying competition received a huge blow on Tuesday when they were beaten 2-0 by the bottom team, Venezuela.
Ruberth Moran's strike seven minutes into the second half in Maracaibo deservedly gave the home side the lead after they had outplayed Uruguay before the break.
Internazionale's Alvaro Recoba twice went close for the visitors as they struggled to raise their game before the Venezuela substitute Alexander Rondon settled the match in injury time.
Uruguay, level on 21 points with fourth-placed Brazil, have played one more game than their more illustrious rivals, who were due to face Paraguay late last night.
Both countries know that whoever finishes in fifth will have to play the Oceania Group winners, Australia, in a home-and-away tie for the right to advance to Japan and Korea for the 2002 World Cup.
Next month Uruguay play Peru while Brazil, who have struggled lately, travel to face the group leaders, Argentina, in Buenos Aires.
Also in the reckoning are Colombia, the recent Copa America winners, who can leapfrog Uruguay and take over fifth place if they beat Peru in Bogota on Thursday morning.
In Santiago, Lazio striker Marcelo Salas scored twice on his international comeback to salvage a 2-2 draw for Chile at home to Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier. Chile ended a run of six successive defeats in the competition but had still expected to do better against Bolivia, who picked up their first away point on the debut of their coach, Jorge Habbeger.
Both teams are effectively out of the running for a place at next year's World Cup. Bolivia remain seventh while Chile are rooted in ninth.
Julio Baldivieso put Bolivia ahead from an 11th-minute penalty against the run of play after Milton Coimbra was cut down by the former West Ham defender Jorge Vargas.
Salas equalised from another penalty in the 35th minute, but Bolivia went back in front in the 73rd minute when Coimbra got his head to a long cross from the left. Four minutes later, a Cristian Montecinos header rebounded off the crossbar and Salas, who is linked with a £7m move to Juventus, headed Chile level.Reuse content