LOS ANGELES - Mexico's 2014 World Cup hopes survived a 2-1 loss at Costa Rica on Tuesday, but only thanks to arch-rivals the United States, whose two injury-time goals spelled heartbreak for Panama.
On a wild final night of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Honduras punched their ticket to Brazil on cue with a 2-2 draw at last-placed Jamaica.
They claimed the third and final automatic qualifying berth from the region behind the United States and Costa Rica.
Mexico, the longtime regional powerhouse who have played in every World Cup since 1990, have endured a dismal qualifying campaign.
But they finished fourth in the table to earn a playoff next month against Oceania's New Zealand for a berth - thanks to the late heroics that saw the United States down Panama 3-2 and end Panama's hopes of seizing the playoff spot.
On a rain-sodden pitch in San Jose, second-half substitute Alvaro Saborio scored the winner for Costa Rica, heading past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in the 64th minute.
Mexico seemed done for shortly thereafter when in Panama City, Luis Tejada struck to give Panama a 2-1 lead over the United States.
But Graham Zusi scored for the USA two minutes into injury time and Aaron Johannsson added another goal to seal a 3-2 US triumph.
Mexico had missed a chance to take an early lead when Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez fired weakly into an open Costa Rican goal. The play was set up by Oribe Peralta, who was then called offside when he moved to tap in Hernandez's miss.
Moments later, Brian Ruiz gave Costa Rica a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute, collecting a high ball and gaining room with a header that he turned and fired past Ochoa with his left foot.