Mexico suffered only their second ever qualifying defeat in the Azteca Stadium with a 2-1 loss to Honduras on Friday that increases the pressure on coach Jose Manuel de la Torre and leaves El Tri with plenty of work to do to qualify for Brazil.
Costa Rica, who top the CONCACAF region standings, took a step toward booking their place at next year’s finals with an impressive 3-1 win over the US, while Panama were held to a goalless draw at home to Jamaica in the other game.
After seven rounds of matches, Costa Rica lead the way on 14 points with the US on 13 and Honduras on 10, while Mexico sit in fourth place, outside the automatic qualification slots, on eight points in the final stage group.
Panama are on seven and Jamaica are bottom of the six-team standings on three points.
Mexico’s biggest worry going into Friday’s game was a lack of firepower at home after their three previous qualifiers at the Azteca had all ended in goalless draws.
Seeking to address the issue, De la Torre left Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez on the bench and started with Oribe Peralto in attack with the move paying off instantly.
Giovani dos Santos burst down the left flank and picked out Peralto with a low cross, which the striker calmly slotted home to end Mexico’s home goal drought after just six minutes.
Mexico seemed in control, but the introduction of Jerry Bengtson to the Honduran attack changed the game.
Carlos Costly’s powerful drive was parried by Jose Corona and Bengtson reacted quickly to tap in the loose ball for a 64th minute equalizer.
Two minutes later, Costly grabbed the winner when he bustled past Diego Reyes before unleashing a superb shot into the far corner.
Mexico travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the US on Tuesday with both teams feeling the pressure to get back to winning ways quickly.
The US suffered a blow even before the game began when key midfielder Michael Bradley limped off the field with an ankle injury picked up during the warmup.
Costa Rica grabbed the lead in the third minute when Jhonny Acosta headed in a corner.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 when Cristian Bolanos floated a ball towards the back post and Celso Borges rose superbly to head home.
Playing in his 100th international game, Clint Dempsey converted a penalty shortly before the break to give Juergen Klinsmann’s side hope of a second half comeback.
However, a goal on the breakaway by the lively Joel Campbell with 13 minutes remaining secured victory for Costa Rica.
Panama will be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of Mexico’s stumble after they failed to defeat a Jamaica team that played most of the second half with 10 men.
It was the first game in charge for Jamaica’s new German coach Winfried Schaefer and he had goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to thank for some superb saves.
Jamaica had Rodolph Austin sent off for a second bookable offence in the 58th minute, but held on for a point.