Jamaica's Reggae Boyz dug themselves farther into the dark abyss of 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign after they gave up a lead to succumb 1-2 to Mexico in a must-win encounter inside Kingston's National Stadium on Thursday night.
The Boyz had already fallen behind the eight ball after central defender Damion Lowe was red-carded on the stroke of half-time following a challenge in mid-pitch in a first half in which the home side produced very little threat or potency in attack.
Paul Hall's charges entered the game seven points off the last automatic place and the play-off position, and by the time Salvadoran referee Ismael Cornejo whistled the contest over they had slipped 10 points off the third place with only five games remaining.
In other results, the top three teams added three points to their tallies, with Canada (16) toppling Honduras 2-0 to move up to 19; USA edging El Salvador 1-0 to move to 18, and Mexico advancing to 17 with their victory over Jamaica.
Costa Rica (nine) edged Panama (14) 1-0 in San Jose, which moved Costa Rica to 12 points.
Jamaica remain on seven points, El Salvador did likewise on six and Honduras are still on three points.
In a drab first 45 minutes the visitors totally dominated possession of the ball as Jamaica relied on scraps and at times looked to lack energy and assertiveness for a team with its back against the wall.
Just after the quarter mark Ernesto Vega stung the palms of goalkeeper Andre Blake when he met a right-sided volley sweetly, on the left of the penalty spot, but the Jamaican captain was equal to the task, tipping over for a corner.
Later Carlos Antuna latched onto a long ball behind the Jamaican defence and his centre pass took a wicked deflection off Ethan Pinnock, which wrong-footed Blake, who recovered quickly to prevent the ball from crossing the goal line.
In one of the few good moments for Jamaica in the first half, Michail Antonio, largely starved of service as his team was pinned on the defensive, broke free inside Mexico's penalty area and, as he wound up to unleash a right-footer, a retreating defensive slid in to block the effort.
Then things went from bad to worse as Lowe left his central defensive position to unleash an aggressive challenge on an opponent. But VAR (American Allen Chapman) being used in Jamaica for the first time, intervened and asked referee Cornejo to check his monitor and the official returned to brandish the red card and send Lowe for an early shower as the half came to an end.
Already under the pressure and being asked to play a man short, the technical staff sacrificed Lamar Walker for central defender Liam Moore and within five minutes of the restart the move paid off.
Daniel Johnson was on hand to lash home a left-footed grounder after the Mexicans failed to properly clear their lines from a Kemar Lawrence right-sided corner.
With three straight defeats staring him in th face, and his job on the line, Mexico's Argentine Coach Tata Martino pulled his ageing Captain Jose Guardado for the more attacking Diego Lainez and that move injected more life in the game as Mexico piled on the pressure and pushed the Jamaican defensive even deeper.
Martino went to his bench yet again in the 70th minute for three changes, while Hall was forced to pull Javain Brown for Alvas Powell and, as fate would have it, two of the substitutes played integral roles in the equaliser.
Henry Martin, who broke Jamaica's hearts when he scored an 89th minute winner in the September reverse fixture, popped up with the equaliser on the 81st minute, and two minutes later the Mexicans turned the game around in spectacular fashion when Vega was on hand to give his team victory.
The Boyz are scheduled to travel to Panama City today ahead of Sunday's game, and they close out the penultimate round when the return home to engage Costa Rica next Wednesday.
Teams: JAMAICA — Andre Blake, Ethan Pinnock, Damion Lowe, Kemar Lawrence (Gregory Leigh 66th), Javain Brown (Alvas Powell 79th), Devon Williams, Daniel Johnson, Ravel Morrison, Lamar Walker (Liam Moore 46th), Junior Flemmings, Michail Antonio (Andre Gray 70th)
Subs not Used: Dwayne Miller, Amal Knight, Cory Burke, Bobby Reid, Javon East, Peter Vassell, Adrian Mariappa
Booked: Lowe (45th, ejected)
MEXICO — Guillermo Ochoa, Carlos Antuna (Jesus Corona 70th), Hector Moreno, Nestor Araujo, Hector Herrera, Jorge Sanchez (Luis Rodriquez 6th), Jesus Gallardo (Henry Martin 70th), Jose Guardado (Diego Linez 54th), Ernesto Vega, Rogelio Funes (Gerardo Arteaga 70th), Carlos Rodriquez
Subs not used: Alfredo Talavera, Jonathan Orozco, Orbelin Pineda, Edson Alvarez, Erick Guitierrez, Julio Dominguez, Luis Romo
Referee: Ismael Cornejo (El Salvador)
Assistant Referees: Juan Zumba (El Salvador), Jose Mangandi (El Salvador)
Fourth Official: Walter Lopez (Guatemala)
VAR: Allen Chapman (USA)
AVAR: Carol Chenard (Canada)
Referee Assessor: Jesus Lebron (Puerto Rico)
Match Commissioner: Allan James (Grenada)