Cyle Larin struck twice to lift Canada to a chilling 2-1 win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton, enabling the host nation to climb to the top of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying standings.
After eight matches Canada remain the only unbeaten team, sitting in first place on 16 points followed by the United States with 15 after a 1-1 draw with Jamaica.
It is an unfamiliar spot for the Cinderella Canadians who have only once before qualified for a World Cup, in 1986.
“It’s about what is going on in this country and the direction the program is going in,” said midfielder Atiba Hutchinson after making his record 90th appearance for Canada.
“We go into games now with a lot of confidence and that is what I have always wanted for this team, this country.”
The loss capped a miserable swing through North America for Mexico, who suffered a 2-0 loss to the United States on Friday and now find themselves on 14 points, level with Panama and in a fight for an automatic qualifying spot.
The top three in the eight-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 with the fourth-placed finisher going into an intercontinental playoff for another spot.
Mexico were welcomed to the Great White North by 50,000 mostly Canadian supporters bundled into the icy Commonwealth Stadium for what was one of the coldest matches ever played in the CONCACAF region. Temperatures were hovering around minus-eight degrees.
Canada rewarded their fans with a first-half stoppage time goal, Larin coolly slotting home a loose ball when keeper Guillermo Ochoa was unable to control a long-range attempt from Alistair Johnston.
Larin found the back of the net again in the 52nd minute getting his right foot on a superb Stephen Eustaquio free kick, the team celebrating by diving into snowbanks rimming the field.
Hector Herrera’s 90th-minute header set up a nail-biting end to the contest. Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan denied Mexico an equaliser when he swept a ball off the goal-line in injury time.
In Kingston, hosts Jamaica held the United States to a surprise 1-1 draw.
The US struck first in the 11th minute through Tim Weah before Michail Antonio levelled for Jamaica 11 minutes later from long range, his rocket dipping under the crossbar out the reach of keeper Zack Steffen.
Defender Damion Lowe briefly appeared to have given Jamaica the lead with a header from a corner in the 84th minute, but his effort was disallowed for a foul.
The US also escaped falling behind in the 53rd minute, when Jamaican Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s attempt at close range flew over the crossbar.
Having won their past four matches against Jamaica and defeating Mexico 2-0 in their most recent outing, the US were expected to dominate.
But the hosts were not overawed as the US seemed to lose their momentum.
In Panama City, Panama got second half strikes from Cecilio Waterman and Freddy Gondola two minutes apart to claim a 2-1 win over El Salvador, who had stunned the home crowd when Jairo Henriquez scored in the opening minute.
In San Jose, Gerson Torres scored in stoppage time to lift Costa Rica to a 2-1 win over Honduras.