Isco scored two remarkable goals to help Spain to a commanding 3-0 win over Italy to take firm control of UEFA World Cup qualifying Group G on Saturday.
Spain now hold a three-point lead over the Azzurri with three games remaining, with only the group winners guaranteed of a spot in Russia next summer, while the runners-up must go through a playoff.
Isco opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a stunning free kick after Leonardo Bonucci dragged down Marco Asensio 20 yards from goal, sending his shot up and over the wall so that even the great Gianluigi Buffon had no hope of reaching it.
He then doubled Spain's advantage five minutes before the break. After taking a pass from Andres Iniesta at the top of the box, he wrong-footed Marco Verratti while dribbling to his left, then put a low shot back to his right inside the near post.
Italy offered little response in the second half, and Alvaro Morata made sure of the points in the 77th minute by tapping in a fine low cross from Sergio Ramos, who was ranging far upfield.
Isco was replaced to a round of applause in the 89th minute by David Villa, who made his first appearance since moving to Major League Soccer three years ago.
Italy still hold a four-point lead over third-placed Albania, who got goals from Odise Roshi and Ansi Agolli to beat Liechtenstein 2-0.
Roshi scored from close range in the 54th minute before Agolli netted from outside the box 12 minutes from time to keep Albania third, behind Spain and Italy, with bottom-placed Liechtenstein still yet to secure a point in qualifying.
Meanwhile, Israel's slim playoff hopes got even slimmer after a 1-0 loss at home to Macedonia, Goran Pandev getting behind the defence to score the only goal in the 73rd minute.
In Group D, Wales teenager Ben Woodburn scored a winner five minutes into his international debut to provide a 1-0 win over Austria.
After coming on as a substitute in the 69th minute, Liverpool youngster Woodburn, 17, took control of the ball about 25 yards out and took a touch towards goal before firing a low rocket inside the left post.
Wales moved to within two points of second-placed Republic of Ireland, who failed to keep the pace after drawing 1-1 with Georgia.
Ireland needed just four minutes to break the deadlock, with Shane Duffy heading the visitors in front after beating Georgi Makaridze to Cyrus Christie's set-piece delivery.
But Georgia found the equaliser half an hour later as Valeri Qazaishvili slotted past Darren Randolph after being played in by Jano Ananidze.
The result leaves second-placed Ireland two points behind leaders Serbia after they secured a 3-0 win over Moldova.
Mijat Gacinovic opened the scoring for the group leaders after 20 minutes with a strike into the top corner.
Aleksandar Kolarov then made it two for Serbia 10 minutes later, arriving at the back post to slot home, before Aleksandar Mitrovic rounded off the scoring by converting Filip Kostic's delivery nine minutes from the end.
Andriy Yarmolenko scored two controversial goals as Ukraine beat Turkey 2-0 to move to the top of Group I.
There was a hint of offside to his 18th-minute breakthrough, and on the second goal Yevhen Konoplyanka appeared to lose the ball over the ball over the endline before cutting it back for Yarmolenko to score.
Ukraine were able to move up as already-eliminated Finland picked up their first victory of the campaign with a 1-0 win over 10-man Iceland.
Finland found the breakthrough after eight minutes through Alexander Ring, who bent a fine free kick into the top corner from the edge of the area, with Iceland's Rurik Gislason receiving his marching orders in the 75th minute after picking up his second yellow card in two minutes.
Iceland, who missed out on the chance to top the group, fell to third, though still only one point back of Ukraine.
Croatia are level on points with Iceland but will have to wait until Sunday to take their chance to go top as their game against Kosovo in Zagreb was abandoned.
The referee stopped the game after the 27th minute because of unplayable field conditions at the Maksimir Stadium. Adverse weather had left the pitch completely flooded near the sidelines, preventing the ball from bouncing.