RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Brazil's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Chile on Sunday has given some breathing space to coach Dunga, who had been facing the possibility of the sack in the case of defeat.
Dunga's side began the game sixth in the 10-team South American group, outside the qualifying places for South Africa, but jumped to second after flooring Chile with their physical strength and ruthless finishing.
Brazil had failed to score in their previous three games, including defeats against Venezuela and Paraguay, a performance blamed on Dunga's ultra-cautious tactics.
The situation worsened when the Olympic team, which Dunga also coached, won only a bronze medal in Beijing last month after losing 3-0 to arch-rivals Argentina in the semi-finals.
Even President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva joined the criticism, saying that Argentina forwards such as Lionel Messi chase back when they lose the ball while Brazilian strikers expect the defence to clear up after them.
Dunga produced a more positive line-up in Santiago on Sunday, with three forwards and a free role given to Diego in midfield.
"I imagine that not just the president but all Brazilians will be happy, especially with the way Brazil behaved," Dunga said after the game.
"We always have three obligations. To win, score lots of goals and put on a show. Brazil is the only country where this happens. And it's not always possible because we are human beings."
Media reaction was generally positive although the influential daily O Globo, which filled its front Olympic page with a tombstone and a mock obituary after the Argentina defeat, was lukewarm.
"The team saves Dunga's neck," read a headline on its website.
The result may also have been a disappointment to many fans who have been hoping for an end to Dunga's reign.
Formerly a hard-tackling, snarling midfielder who captained the 1994 World Cup winning side, Dunga was brought in two years ago following Brazil's lacklustre campaign at the 2006 World Cup.
He had no senior coaching experience at the time but it was hoped he would reinstall commitment and pride in the national team, which many felt had gone missing.
However, his habit of filling the midfield with tackling specialists such as Gilberto Silva, Josue and Mineiro had become deeply unpopular.
Brazil's game against Bolivia in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday will provide a useful gauge of his popularity.
The coach was jeered and goaded with chants of "Goodbye Dunga" during the 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw at home to Argentina in June, when the Belo Horizonte crowd provocatively gave a standing ovation to rival forward Messi.
"I hope they behave like the Chileans here," said Dunga, when asked what he expected in Rio.
"In any part of the world, we are always treated in the best possible way. If we had that in Brazil, we would certainly play better."