Australia looked sure to progress in World Cup qualifying after a 3-0 win over Oman kept them on maximum points in Group D, and South Korea moved towards the last stage with a 2-1 win against UAE.
Thailand held Frank Rijkaard's Saudi Arabia to a 0-0 draw, and Iran launched a security crackdown before their clash with Bahrain.
Iraq edged a tense clash with China 1-0 and there were also wins for Jordan and Qatar as 10 games swung into action across the region.
South Korea had a second-half own goal to thank as UAE defender Ismail Hamdan's inadvertent strike helped them to a 2-1 win in Suwon. Arsenal's Park Chu-Young had opened the scoring and UAE pulled one back in second-half injury time.
An own goal also played a part in the other match in the group as Lebanon twice led - thanks to a brace by Hassan Maatouk - only for Mahmoud Younes to put into his own net in the 88th minute to allow Kuwait steal a 2-2 draw.
The Lebanese, though, can still entertain hopes of taking second as they have bounced back impressively after a humiliating 6-0 opening match walloping by South Korea going on to beat the hapless UAE 3-1 in their previous match.
In Sydney, Brett Holman, Josh Kennedy and Mile Jedinak were all on the scoresheet as Australia registered their third win out of three and looked certain to progress.
"The target was to win and to win well," said captain Lucas Neill. "Now we've got one foot in the next round but we've still got a lot of work to do."
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Jordan took a big step towards their first berth in the final qualifying stage with a 3-0 away win over Singapore, while Qatar came out on top of a 3-2 slug-fest against Indonesia in Jakarta.
China's ex-Real Madrid coach Jose Antonio Camacho admitted the defeat to Iraq, who played 25 minutes with 10 men, had put their qualification hopes in jeopardy.
"It’s going to be difficult to qualify from here but it’s not impossible. We will try harder in the next game to see what we can do," he said.
Rijkaard, who was hired for the Saudis' World Cup campaign, may also come under pressure after failing to win any of the first three games.
"The Saudi team still have a chance because we will play Thailand on our home soil as Oman lost to Australia," insisted the former Barcelona boss.
Meanwhile in Tehran, security was ramped up at Iran's Azadi Stadium following political tensions with Group E rivals and Gulf neighbours Bahrain over Manama's tough clampdown on Shiite dissidents.
However, the game was virtually over as a contest inside the first minute as the visitors had Rashed Al Hooti sent off and the hosts then cruised to a 6-0 thrashing of their rivals.
The winners and runners-up of the five groups will be drawn into two pools for the round-robin fourth stage, with the eventual top two in each section earning a ticket to the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The two third-placed teams will then face each other for the right to contest an intercontinental play-off.