South Korea booked their ticket to the 2018 World Cup in Russia thanks to a nervy 0-0 draw in Uzbekistan.
The Taeguk Warriors missed the chance to confirm their spot last time out after being held to a goalless draw by 10-man Iran, who had already qualified from Group A.
Consequently, a three-way tussle for one remaining automatic qualifying berth ensued, with Korea, Uzbekistan and underdogs Syria all in contention.
Syria secured a last-gasp 2-2 draw against Iran, but a point was enough for Korea in Tashkent to earn second place and secure a ninth consecutive World Cup appearance.
However, Uzbekistan’s chances are over thanks to the late show from Syria, who now face a two-legged contest with either Australia or Saudi Arabia to reach an intercontinental play-off against CONCACAF opposition.
It could have been more comfortable for Korea, who saw Hwang Hee-chan and Son Heung-min rattle the woodwork, although Azizbek Haydarov also smashed an effort against the post for Uzbekistan.
But a point ultimately proved enough for Shin Tae-yong – taking charge of just his second match – to lead his side to Russia.
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Korea almost went in front in just the second minute. Hwang took down a long throw-in on his chest and smashed an effort against the crossbar when shooting on the spin.
Uzbekistan settled into the match, though, and Haydarov was desperately unlucky to see a 30-yard piledriver cannon back off the left-hand post.
The hosts were let off the hook, though, when Jang Hyun-soo wastefully scuffed wide from 10 yards, having escaped his marker.
Incredibly, the woodwork was struck for the third time on the stroke of half-time as Son’s effort from a tight angle was pushed onto the right post by Ignatiy Nesterov.
The second half became a scrappy affair, but a fine piece of interplay between Lee Keun-ho and Hwang led to the former bending an effort narrowly wide of the right post from the edge of the box just short of the hour mark.
Kim Min-woo then stung Nesterov’s palms as the visitors built some momentum.
Alexander Geynrikh tested Kim Seung-gyu as Uzbekistan sought a late shock, while at the other end Lee Dong-gook nodded an effort against the bar and Son curled a presentable chance wide but it ultimately mattered little for Korea.
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