Heading into their third Group C game on Wednesday, the stakes for Cuba and Guatemala were simple: Win and you move on to the 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinals.
Cuba ended up grabbing the spoils in the winner-take-all game, downing Guatemala 1-0 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte behind Maikel Reyes' goal.
Though the other two teams in the group, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago, had locked up the top two places ahead of the final matchday, Cuba and Guatemala still had a shot of advancing as one of the best third-place teams in the tournament if either team won.
In the end, Cuba, who lost 6-0 in their first game against Mexico and lost 3-0 to T&T, did just enough in the final game, scoring their only goal of the tournament at the perfect time, and as a result will reach the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Gold Cup, where they will face Group A winner USMNT.
Cuba's breakthrough came in the 73rd minute. Ariel Martinez sent a long pass to Alberto Gomez on the left flank, who sent in a cross into the box. Reyes' diving header from point blank range would make no mistake.
Both teams had chances in the first half, but overall the shots were speculative looks from around the edge of the box. In Cuba's case, that wasn't a terrible strategy, as Guatemala goalkeeper Paulo Motta was looking into the sun, but the island nation could not convert in the first 45.
Carlos Mejia had a possible penalty shout in the box for Guatemala in the 23rd minute, but replays indicated the player went down perhaps too easily for referee Elmer Bonilla's taste, and play continued without a call.
Martinez looked to have put Cuba ahead in the 52nd minute with an unmarked header to the far post off a cross, but it flashed just wide of the target.
Cuba turned up the pressure as the second half wore on, and were rewarded for their efforts with Reyes' winner in the final 20 minutes of the match.
Marco Pappa had a late chance, with a long strike in second-half stoppage time, but Cuban goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra made the leaping save to push it away from goal and preserve the result.
Guatemala's Gold Cup is over with a 0-2-1 record. Cuba, meanwhile, will face the US on Saturday in Baltimore (5 pm ET, FOX/Univision/UDN in US, SN World in Canada) for a place in the semifinals.