Argentina has survived a spirited charge from Ecuador to hold on for a 1-1 draw in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in high-altitude Quilto.
Sergio Aguero scored an early penalty but the visitors were forced to settle for a point after Segundo Castillo’s header after 17 minutes put the hosts back on level pegging.
When Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez spilled a long range shot from Angel Di Maria, Rodrigo Palacio looked to pounce on the rebound only to be bundled over by a clumsy attempt from the keeper forcing the referee to award a penalty.
With Lionel Messi yet to return to the starting XI, Aguero stepped up to the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way.
But 16 minutes later Ecuador captain Walter Ayoi whipped in a free kick and Castillo obligingly headed home from close range to allow the hosts to equalise.
Alejandro Sabella introduced Messi after 61 minutes but he was unable to provide the spark for the visitors to snatch a winner.
Ecuador continued to push forward late managing to stretch the Albiceleste defence on numerous occasions and Argentina were lucky to hold on after being reduced to 10 men when Javier Mascherano was sent off after kicking a medical car driver who was taking him from the pitch.
Meanwhile, Colombia took a big step towards securing their place in Brazil after they emerged victorious in their qualifier against Peru thanks to first-half goals from Radamel Falcao and Teofilo Gutierrez.
Falcao confidently slotted home a penalty in the 13th minute after Camilo Zuniga was brought down in the area.
Teofilo Gutierrez added to the Peruvian pain in first-half injury time before the result was all but sealed when Peru defender Carlos Zambrano received his marching orders in the 70th minute.
The win solidifies Colombia spot in second place on the table just three points behind Argentina.
In other games in the group, Uruguay defeated Venezuela on the road 1- 0 and Chile delighted their home fans with a 3 – 1 win over Bolivia.
After the win Chile are occupying fourth, the final automatic qualification place, and Uruguay are in fifth which would require them to play off with an Asian qualifier.