Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres scored a goal, and LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo stopped a penalty kick from Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, but it wasn't enough to give Panama a share of the points in Mexico's Estadio Azteca on Friday evening.
Towering Club America striker Raul Jimenez penned the last - and best - act of a back-and-forth contest, pinging home a spectacular 17-yard bicycle kick in the 85th minute to give El Tri a vital 2-1 win over Los Canaleros. The win moves Mexico into fourth place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal with one match to play, three points ahead of Panama.
Mexico opened the scoring in the 40th minute through Oribe Peralta after a dominant first half, but it was Panama who controled large swathes of the second stanza. Torres, who came in for FC Dallas striker Blas Perez in the 79th minute, made that dominance count two minutes later with the equalizer after a blown offside trap by the hosts.
Penedo had earlier kept los Canaleros close, saving a poor Chicarito penalty after a dubious call in the box.
Mexico travel to Costa Rica, who were blanked 1-0 by Honduras on Friday afternoon, for their final qualifier on Tuesday. Panama, meanwhile, host the USA.
In order for Mexico to claim third place and automatically qualify for next summer's World Cup, they would need to win and see Honduras lose at Jamaica by enough to overtake the Catrachos on goal differential.
For Panama, any multi-goal win against the US and a Mexico loss, or a single-goal win and a Mexico loss in which El Tri score fewer than four goals are the paths to fourth place in the Hex. Whichever team finishes fourth will take on New Zealand in a home-and-home for a spot in Brazil.