Continental powerhouses Japan, Australia and Iran stamped their authority on Asian World Cup qualifying with comfortable victories in the third round of matches on Tuesday.
Japan, who scraped past North Korea 1-0 at home and drew 1-1 in Uzbekistan in their opening two Group C games, crushed Tajikistan 8-0 in Osaka with Mike Havenaar, Shinji Okazaki and midfielder Shinji Kagawa scoring two goals each.
“We knew we were expected to win but it felt good to win in such emphatic fashion,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters.
In the other Group C match, Uzbekistan maintained their unbeaten run as Alexander Geynrikh's first-half goal secured a 1-0 win over North Korea in Pyongyang.
Australia beat Oman 3-0 in Sydney and took a big step towards the next stage with their third successive victory, cementing their place at the top of Group D.
Brett Holman's goal after seven minutes and second-half strikes from Josh Kennedy and Mile Jedinak sank Oman.
“I always keep saying the 11 players on the pitch are all key players, if they don't have the quality or the potential they don't have the right to play in the Socceroos,” Australia coach Holger Osieck said.
“It was important for us to win but it's not a finished situation. We still have to win games, gain points... the boys are all aware of that.”
Iran played almost the whole match against a 10-man Bahrain after Rashid Al Hooti was sent off within the first minute for a dangerous tackle and the hosts took full advantage to win 6-0.
Amid rising political tensions between the two nations, Carlos Queiroz's men scored three times either side of the break to reach the top of the group in front of about 80,000 spectators at Tehran's Azadi Stadium.
Younis Mahmoud scored the winner in the 45th minute as China lost 1-0 to 10-man Iraq, coached by Brazilian Zico, in Shenzhen.
China, coached by Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho, failed to take advantage of Basem Abbas's sending-off for a second yellow card in the 64th minute and suffered their second Group A defeat in a row.
2022 World Cup hosts Qatar had to dig deep in Jakarta to win 3-2 against a resilient Indonesian side, who twice came from behind to level.
Qatar, who drew their first two matches in Group D, took the lead through Abdulaziz Al Sulaiti in the 14th minute before Uruguay-born striker Cristian Gonzales, who became an Indonesian citizen last November, equalised 12 minutes later.
Qatar took the lead again in the 32nd minute through Khalfan Ibrahim, only for Gonzales to score his second goal three minutes later.
Mohammed Razak's 59th-minute strike turned out to be the winning goal as the Gulf side maintained their unbeaten run.
Saudi Arabia, three-times Asian champions, continued to disappoint with a goalless draw against Thailand in the other Group D match.
The side coached by former Dutch international Frank Rijkaard, needed a win to close the gap on Australia and Thailand but they struggled in front of goal and continue to languish in third spot with two points from three matches.
An own goal from Hamdan Al Kamali and skipper Park Chu-young's fifth goal in the qualifiers gave South Korea a 2-1 home win over United Arab Emirates.
Park opened the scoring five minutes into the second half and the home side went 2-0 up in the 63rd minute courtesy of the own goal.
Ismaeil Matar scored a consolation in stoppage-time for the Gulf side who suffered their third consecutive defeat.
Another last-gasp own goal in Beirut denied Lebanon a home victory over Kuwait as the match finished 2-2.
Lebanon got a golden opportunity to bag full points when they were awarded a penalty in the 86th minute penalty, which Hassan Maatouk successfully converted.
But two minutes later, the home fans were in for a shock when Mahmoud Younes put the ball into his own net to gift Kuwait a share of points.
Jordan continued their rich vein of form as they made it three successive victories with a 3-0 win at bottom-placed Singapore to sit pretty at the top of Group A.