Iran remain in the hunt for a spot in South Africa as a wonder-strike by Ali Karimi early in the second half saw them edge the United Arab Emirates in Tehran on Wednesday.
Needing a win to keep alive any realistic hope of qualifying for their third World Cup in four attempts, the Iranians were continually frustrated by the UAE defence and goalkeeper Majed Naser.
But Karimi eased the concerns of the home fans at the Azadi Stadium with a classy winning goal in the 53rd minute.
It was only the second win in Group B for the Iranians, which elevated them to 10 points, one behind both North Korea and Saudi Arabia who meet next Wednesday in Riyadh.
Iran have their fate in their own hands and can ensure at least a play-off spot with victory in Seoul against already-qualified South Korea in their final Group B game.
An Iran win and a draw in Riyadh would even see them finish second, giving them an automatic berth in South Africa.
Entering the match with only one win in six group games, the Iranians immediately set to make things right, threatening in the opening minute when Vahid Hashemian chested down Karimi's cross in the box but fired his effort straight at goalkeeper Majed Naser.
In the 10th minute, Hashemian rose to meet Pejman Nouri's cross from the left but sent his header wide.
UAE rarely threatened in the opening half but on one of their rare attacks, Nawaf Mubarak nearly opened the scoring with a free-kick which was deflected wide.
Javad Nekounam saw his header stopped by Naser while Masoud Shojaei's shot deflected off a defender and flew over the crossbar.
Half-time substitute Mohammad Khalatbari almost broke the deadlock early in the second half when his header off a Nouri cross was superbly stopped by Naser.
In his desperation to retrieve the rebound, Khalatbari charged in on Naser with his studs up. He raked the goalkeeper and was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.
The home side's frustrations were finally ended eight minutes after the interval after a fine individual effort by Karimi.
Receiving a pass from Andranik Teymourian in midfield, Karimi displayed great control and composure to take the ball into the box, holding off a couple of challenges before slotting the ball home.
UAE threatened on the hour when Abdulsalam Jumma's shot from 20 metres was easily stopped by goalkeeper Seyed Rahmati.
But it was the Iranians who had the better of the opportunities as the clock ticked down.
Arash Borhani failed to get enough purchase on an effort which was cleared off the line by Obaid Khaleifa, and with six minute remaining, Hossein Kaebi made a brilliant run in from the right flank before firing a low shot that rolled narrowly past the upright.