Montevideo: Argentina rode their luck to come away from Lima with a 1-1 draw against Peru and maintain their slender one-point lead at the top of the World Cup 2014 South American qualifying table.
But as tournament lives up to up to its billing as the toughest of the zonal qualifiers, the Argentinians are now just three points clear of sixth-placed Venezuela, who beat out-of-sorts Paraguay 2-0 in Asuncion.
There was little consolation, though, for reigning continental champions Uruguay who, after their crushing 4-0 defeat by Colombia on Friday night brought an 18-match unbeaten run to an end, were held to a tame 1-1 draw by Ecuador in Montevideo.
Colombia, on the other hand, go from strength to strength, wresting second place in the group from Chile with a commanding 3-1 victory in Santiago and are now just a point off the lead and level on points with Ecuador.
Argentina were made to struggle in Peru and were fortunate to hold on for a point in front of more than 50,000 spectators who taunted playmaker Lionel Messi unmercifully every time he touched the ball.
Peru should have taken an early lead after two minutes when they were awarded a penalty but Argentine goalkepper Sergio Romero spared his side's blushes by saving Claudio Pizarro's tame effort. However, the Peruvians dominated and went in front after 21 minutes through defender Carlos Zambrano.
That stung the Argentines into life and they were level 15 minutes later through Gonzalo Higuain who took one of the few chances his side carved out on the night after being put through by Ezequiel Lavezzi.
After the debacle in Colombia, Uruguay found themselves trailing again to a Felipe Caicedo penalty against Ecuador, but Edinson Cavani hit back with only his second goal in 14 qualifying matches.
The recent poor run of form prompted Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez to comment: "The players are as committed as ever but it goes without saying that we haven't come away with what we wanted from these two games. It was clear for everyone to see: we're not playing well."
Colombia, meanwhile, dealt Chile their first defeat in eight games, coming from behind to win a nail-biter 3-1.
Chile's Gary Medel was sent off after 34 minutes and the home side threw everything into attack and were rewarded with a Matias Fernandez goal in the 58th minute. But James Rodriguez hit back immediately and two goals inside three minutes, from Radamel Falcao and Teofilo Guttierez, broke Chile down.
Venezuela, the only South American country never to have qualified for the finals, kept up their challenge with a 2-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Paraguay, with both goals coming from Salomon Rondon, to avenge the Venezuelans' semi-final defeat in last year's Copa America.