Two-goal Romelu Lukaku fired Belgium into next year's World Cup finals as their golden generation sealed a return to the global showpiece on Friday for the first time since 2002 with a 2-1 win against Croatia.
Alberto Aquilani struck an injury-time equaliser to snatch a 2-2 draw for Brazil-bound Italy and prevent Denmark climbing into second place in Group B.
Two almost identical far post headers by Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner, playing in his first international match since being suspended for six months after being arrested for drink driving, looked to have secured victory against an Italy side that faded after Pablo Osvaldo's brilliant 28th-minute goal.
But Aquilani silenced the celebrating home fans when he diverted Osvaldo's weak shot home from close range.
Bulgaria's hopes of securing second place behind Italy, and a potential playoff match, suffered a huge setback after they had two players sent off in a 2-1 defeat in Armenia with the hosts netting the winner three minutes from time.
The Bulgarians had Nikolay Bodurov dismissed on the stroke of halftime and went down to nine men after 63 minutes when Svetoslav Dyakov was shown a second yellow card.
Yura Movsisyan won it for Armenia when he broke clear to score late on.
Two goals in each half helped Czech Republic to a comfortable 4-1 win in their Group B qualifier away to Malta to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.
The Czechs opened their account in the third minute when Tomas Hubschman's long-range shot deflected off the back of a Maltese defender and past goalkeeper Justin Haber before David Lafata grabbed the second.
Michael Mifsud, winning his 100th Malta cap, pulled one back for the hosts but Vaclav Kadlec gave the Czechs some breathing space four minutes later before Tomas Pekhart completed the scoring with a late header.
Triple former champions Germany secured a place at next year's World Cup in Brazil with a game to spare by sweeping Ireland aside 3-0.
Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck a late winner to give Sweden a 2-1 victory over Austria on Friday that secured second place.
Faroe Islands claimed an unlikely point, their first of this qualifying campaign, at home to Kazakhstan in a 1-1 draw.
Robin van Persie broke the Netherlands' goalscoring record when he struck a hat-trick to reach 41 international goals in their 8-1 win against Hungary.
Striker Claudiu Keseru scored on his international debut as Romania cruised to a 4-0 win over Andorra to keep alive their playoff hopes.
Romania, who have not reached the World Cup finals since 1998, host Estonia in their final qualifier on Tuesday while Turkey take on the Dutch in Istanbul.
Turkey beat Estonia 2-0 to also boost their hopes of reaching next year's finals in Brazil via the playoffs.
After a slow start, Umut Bulut opening the scoring for Turkey in the 22nd minute when he headed home a cross from the left before Burak Yilmaz made it two in the 47th minute.
Switzerland secured a place in next year's World Cup finals with a 2-1 win over Albania to clinch top spot.
Iceland struck twice in the second half to keep their unlikely bid for a World Cup spot alive with a 2-0 victory over Cyprus after goals from Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Gylfi Sigurdsson.
A hat-trick from Milivoje Novakovic ensured Slovenia a comfortable 3-0 victory at home to Norway.
Portugal's hopes of securing automatic qualification suffered a major blow on Friday when a late blunder by goalkeeper Rui Patricio gifted Israel a 1-1 draw.
The result is enough to guarantee Portugal a playoff spot but victory would have kept them a point behind leaders Russia before Tuesday's final round of matches.
It means Portugal have 18 points from nine games before hosting Luxembourg, while Russia have three points more before they travel to Azerbaijan. Russia have a vastly superior goal difference, meaning they will most likely qualify automatically whatever happens on Tuesday.
Russia moved closer to qualification with a 4-0 thumping of Luxembourg that kept Fabio Capello's side top of Group F with one round of matches to play.
Alexander Samedov opened the scoring in the ninth minute, with Luxembourg defender Chris Philipps trying to stop the ball with his foot but directing it into the net and Viktor Fayzulin doubled the visitors' lead half an hour later.
Denis Glushakov ensured they went into the break with a comfortable lead with a goal on the stroke of halftime, while Alexander Kerzhakov made it four on 73 minutes after being set up by Dmitry Kombarov.
Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign stumbled to another new low as they followed up their defeat in Luxembourg with a 2-0 loss in Azerbaijan.
Manager Michael O'Neill had demanded a response to the dismal defeat last month but was instead handed another humiliating setback as goals from Rufat Dadasov and Mahir Shukurov secured the hosts a 2-0 win at the Bakcell Arena.
Northern Ireland had enjoyed the best of a goalless first half but their night took a dreadful turn for the worse after the break, culminating in an injury-time red card for Jonny Evans.
Bosnia scored four goals in 12 first-half minutes to beat Liechtenstein 4-1 in Group G take a big step towards reaching their first major tournament as an independent nation.
Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko scored twice and Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic added the other two goals in a frantic spell between the 27th and 39th minutes to keep Bosnia top of the group before Tuesday's final round of matches.
Nicolas Hasler pulled one back for the visitors in the 61st minute.
Greece benefitted from a goalkeeping howler as they beat Slovakia 1-0 in a tightly-contested qualifier to stay very much in the hunt for an automatic berth in the finals.
Fernando Santos's team were in the ascendancy for long periods but claimed all three points only thanks to Martin Skrtel's own goal which followed a woeful error by Slovakian goal keeper Jan Mucha.
Mucha was left red-faced after he took his eye off the ball as Liverpool defender Skrtel rolled a simple back pass which eased under the goalkeeper's foot and across the line.
Lithuania won the battle of the Baltic states against Latvia after goals from Fedor Cernych and Saulius Mikoliunas secured a 2-0 win.
A brilliant goal on his debut by midfielder Andros Townsend kept England on course for the World Cup finals as they beat Montenegro 4-1 at Wembley to remain top of Group H with one match to play.
Andriy Yarmolenko scored the only goal as Ukraine edged past Poland 1-0 and now look certain to finish in the top two.
The Ukrainians have 18 points ahead of their final match against bottom team San Marino, who are without a point from nine games, on Tuesday.
Winger Yarmolenko was unmarked in the middle of the area in the 64th minute at the Metalist Arena and collected a perfect cross from Evhen Konoplyanka before curling the ball into the top corner of the net.
In the group’s other match, Moldova grabbed three second half goals to prevent an upset against San Marino.
Holders Spain moved to the brink of qualifying for next year's World Cup finals when captain Xavi and substitute Alvaro Negredo struck in a laboured 2-1 win at home to Belarus.