Argentina are in danger of missing their first World Cup since 1970 after a 0-0 home draw against Peru in CONMEBOL qualifying on Thursday.
The result places Jorge Sampaoli's side out of the qualification spots, dropping the Albiceleste, who began the day in fourth, to sixth in the table with just one round to play.
Playing in his first official match at the historic Bombonera stadium, Lionel Messi nearly opened the scoring midway through the first half, flashing his shot just wide of the post from outside the box after a superb run.
Messi turned provider just before half-time, lobbing perfectly for surprise starter Dario Benedetto to head high of the goal from near the six-yard box.
Seconds after the break, Messi's right foot let him down as the Barcelona star shockingly hit the outside of the post after quickly pouncing on a spilled save with the entire goal to shoot at.
Updated CONMEBOL standings and SPI projections. This is nuts. pic.twitter.com/roIlMD3l5U— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) October 6, 2017
Messi played Alejandro Gomez in on goal in the 57th minute, but Pedro Gallese made an excellent save of his close range shot from an angle.
Javier Mascherano fired just high from well outside the box on 77 minutes but Argentina would get no closer on the disappointing day.
Argentina will finish their qualification campaign against eighth-placed Ecuador on Tuesday, needing a win to guarantee at least a playoff spot.
Peru, who are in the fifth and final qualification place, will host Colombia in Lima.
Meanwhile, Uruguay missed clinching a spot in Russia 2018 after a 0-0 stalemate in Venezuela.
The second-placed Uruguayans needed only a win in Tachira, but couldn't find a breakthrough against a resolute Venezuela side at the Estadio Pueblo Nuevo.
The draw gives Oscar Tabarez's men 28 points from 17 matches, while last-placed Venezuela sit on nine.
Uruguay will welcome Bolivia in their final match, while Venezuela will close at Paraguay.
Reeling Chile earned a dramatic late 2-1 win over Ecuador in Santiago to keep their World Cups hopes alive.
Eduardo Vargas netted his 35th career goal for his country in the 22nd minute, receiving in the centre of the box before side-footing past Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera.
The visitors appeared to have secured a point in the 84th through Romario Ibarra Mina, but Alexis Sanchez rescued the three points seconds later with a simple finish after Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera palmed Felipe Gutierrez's shot directly into the Arsenal man's path.
La Roja will wrap up their qualification campaign at Brazil, who have already qualified.
Colombia dropped to fourth place after a stunning 2-1 defeat to Paraguay in Barranquilla.
Radamel Falcao poked home a Yimmi Chara through ball up and over onrushing keeper Antony Silva in the 79th minute to seemingly move Jose Pekerman's side one step closer to a spot in Russia next summer.
The goal was the red-hot Falcao's 14th in his last 13 matches for club and country.
But Oscar Cardozo struck one minute from time, and Antonio Sanabria fired home two minutes later to give the Paraguayans the improbable win.
Brazil and Bolivia played an entertaining 0-0 draw in a game that did nothing to change either side's World Cup fate.
Bolivia keeper Carlos Lampe made 11 saves in the match -- the most by any keeper over the past two CONMEBOL qualifying cycles -- as the hosts held on for a hard-fought point against the five-time champions.
The draw marks just the second in World Cup qualifying under Tite and second straight for the Brazilians, who still sit atop the South American table.
The draw gives ninth-placed Bolivia 14 points from 17 matches.