Harib Abdalla Suhail scored the all-important goal as the UAE stunned South Korea 1-0 on Tuesday to advance to an Asian qualifying playoff against Australia on the road to the World Cup in Qatar.
South Korea and Iran had already made the cut directly from Group A in the final round of qualifying, leaving the UAE and Iraq in a crunch battle to clinch the third spot in order to earn the right to meet Australia, who finished third in Group B.
The winners of that match will meet a South American team in an inter-continental playoff with the victors advancing to the World Cup proper.
The loss in Dubai on Tuesday was South Korea's first defeat in 10 matches as they finished in second in Group A with 23 points, two behind top side Iran.
The Emiratis have been in the finals of the quadrennial showpiece only once, in 1990, and although they were allowed only a miserly 23 percent ball possession, they managed to sneak a goal through the South Korean defence in the 54th minute to grab a crucial victory and finish on 12 points.
Mohammed al-Balushi provided the assist with a headed pass and Suhail found the bottom right corner of the South Korean net with a fine left-footed shot.
The rattled South Koreans tried their utmost to fined the equaliser but the hosts held firm to keep their slim hopes alive via the playoff route.
Iraq faced Syria a few kilometres across Dubai at the Rashid Stadium but the Iraqis fell behind in the third minute to an Alaa al-Dali goal before Aymen Hussein’s 31st minute strike helped them restore parity.
Iraq would have made the playoff only if they had beaten Syria and the UAE drew with or lost to South Korea.
Earlier Iran beat Lebanon 2-0 to finish in top spot while Japan, who have already qualified for Qatar, and Vietnam played out a 1-1 draw.