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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

China claim historic win against South Korea as Australia held by Iraq

Yu Dabao's header and a stirring second-half performance by goalkeeper Zeng Cheng saw China claim a 1-0 win over South Korea on Thursday that keeps alive Marcello Lippi's side's slim hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Yu headed in the winner 11 minutes before the break while Zeng made a trio of superb saves to deny Uli Stielike's side in the second half as the Chinese notched up their first win over the South Koreans in seven years, and only their second ever victory against their more illustrious rivals.

Also in Group A, Omar Khribin's last-minute penalty earned Syria a dramatic 1-0 win against Uzbekistan.

That result lifts Syria to fourth and within a point of third-placed Uzbekistan. China are fifth on five points with four games to play.

The top two sides from each group qualify for the World Cup, while the third-placed teams advance to a playoff against each other.

Mehdi Taremi's goal early in the second half gave Group A leaders Iran a 1-0 win at Qatar.

Iran top the group on 14 points, five clear of the playoff spot, while Qatar fell to the bottom on four points in their quest to qualify before they host the 2022 World Cup.

In Group B, Australia escaped with a nerve-wracking 1-1 draw against Iraq amid dreadful conditions in Tehran to leave their qualification hopes in the balance.

Mathew Leckie gave Australia the lead with a 40th-minute header from an Aaron Mooy corner kick but Iraq's attacking persistence paid off through substitute Ahmed Yasin's second-half equaliser.

It came as coach Ange Postecoglou boldly unveiled a brand new 3-4-3 formation at the PAS Stadium and the players took some time to adjust as they hung on for their fourth qualifying draw in a row.

Australia have three home games to come -- the next on Tuesday in Sydney against the United Arab Emirates -- and at this stage it appears they will likely need to win all of them to make it to Russia.

Japan won away to the United Arab Emirates for the first time in the history, prevailing 2-0 to stay level on points atop Group B.

Yuya Kubo took one touch to score at the near post to give Japan the lead on 13 minutes, before turning provider six minutes after half-time, providing a cross that Yasuyuki Konno chested down and scored from close range.

U.A.E. remained in fourth place, one point behind Australia for the playoff spot.

Saudi Arabia took advantage of poor Thailand defending to manage a 3-0 win at Thailand.

Mohamed Alsahlawi put the Saudis ahead in the 26th minute, but the hosts were still pushing for an equaliser until six minutes from times, when Tanaboon Kesarat diverted a cross into his own net.

Salman Mushawar added a third in stoppage time to keep the Saudis atop Group B on goal difference above Japan. Thailand remain bottom with one point through six games.

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