Uruguay and the USA played out an exciting 27-27 draw in the 2015 World Cup Americas 2 qualifier in Montevideo on Saturday.
With USA 18th in the IRB World Rankings and Uruguay 20th, the match promised to be competitive, and the result sets up a mouth-watering winner-takes-all encounter in Atlanta next weekend.
The winner will join a highly-competitive Pool B at England 2015 alongside 2007 champions South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asia 1 qualifier.
Uruguay had won just one of the previous 12 encounters between the two teams, but in perfect conditions the home side stormed out of the blocks and Joaquin Prada's try and some fine marksmanship from Felipe Berchesi gave Uruguay a 19-6 lead approaching the interval.
USA showed great character to haul themselves into the game and Phillip Thiel's close-range try with Folau Niua's conversion got the Eagles back in the match at 19-13, dealing Uruguay a psychological blow at half time.
Berchesi extended the lead to 22-13 immediately after the break, but USA found their stride and during a purple patch of form hit back with a beautifully taken 50-metre try by the athletic second row Samu Manoa and another fine effort from Chris Wyles to take the lead for the first time since the opening minutes at 27-22.
Uruguay's strength at the scrum began to yield results and the home side took full advantage, scoring a try through scrum-half Agustin Ormaechea inside the final 10 minutes after a series of scrums on the visitors' five-metre line.
Both sides had their chances in a frantic final 10 minutes that saw the tempo raised in search of the winning points, but the final whistle came before the scoreboard was troubled, leaving both teams with work to do ahead of the decisive leg in Atlanta.
"In the second half we did more often what we wanted to do, and we did it efficiently," said USA head coach Mike Tolkin.
"First half also we gave away a lot of penalties.
"We'll look at the film and see where they were. Some of them were just poor decisions when people should stay out of it. Second half wasn't as bad in terms of having bad penalties."
Tolkin also said there were no injury troubles from the match.
"We are very happy about the match we played," said Berchesi, who finished up with 17 points to his name.
"We were not the favourites and most people were expecting us to lose easily.
"The qualifier is still open and I hope we can have a great match away but we need to make no mistakes."
While defeat next weekend will not end either side's Rugby World Cup 2015 hopes, both will be desperate to avoid the next phase of the play-off process, where the second place Asian team will have to be beaten before facing the winner of the Europe/Africa play-off in the Repechage final.
Tries: Prada, Ormaechea
Pens: Berchesi 5
Tries: Thiel, Manoa, Wyles
Cons: Niua 3
Pens: Niua 2
Uruguay: 15 Gaston Mieres, 14 Leandro Leivas, 13 Joaquin Prada, 12 Andres Vilaseca, 11 Jeronimo Etcheverry, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 9 Agustin Ormaechea, 8 Alejandro Nieto, 7 Diego Magno, 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara, 5 Santiago Vilaseca, 4 Mathias Palomeque, 3 Oscar Duran, 2 Arturo Avalo (c), 1 Alejo Corral
Replacements: 16 Nicolas Klappenbach, 17 Rodolfo de Mula, 18 Mario Sagario Cagnani, 19 Cristofer Soares de Lima, 20 Franco Lammana, 21Juan de Freitas Turcatti, 22 Alejo Duran, 23 Francisco Bulanti
USA: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Folau Niua, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Tim Maupin, 10 Toby L'Estrange, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Scott LaValla, 6 Todd Clever (c), 5 Samu Manoa, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Eric Fry, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Olive Kilifi
Replacements: 16 Tom Coolican, 17 Nick Wallace, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Louis Stanfill, 20 Kyle Sumsion, 21 Shalom Suniula, 22 Seamus Kelly, 23 Luke Hume