Israel all but condemned Portugal to the World Cup qualifying play-offs as a late equaliser from Eden Ben Basat forced a shock 1-1 draw in Lisbon.
Paulo Bento's men allowed themselves to dream of snatching first place from Russia in Group F when Ricardo Costa beat goalkeeper Dudu Aouate to give Portugal the lead after 28 minutes.
It would be the last goal Israel's resilient keeper would concede as he raised his game to repel everything else thrown at him over the next hour.
His counterpart Rui Patricio was, however, guilty of losing concentration at a vital moment in the final exchanges with Ben Basat stealing in to grab Israel a point and rob Portugal of two.
The Iberian nation must now beat Luxembourg on Tuesday to stand any chance of usurping Russia, but Fabio Capello's side take a three-point lead and an already fearsome goal difference to Azerbaijan.
Miguel Veloso attempted an audacious volley in the fourth minute and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo was soon testing his aim from just outside the box.
Nani was the first of many players to test Aouate's reflexes when he snuck into the box to force a parry from the Israel goalkeeper in the 23rd minute.
Ruben Micael then watched Aouate tip his long-range effort over the bar but it would not matter as Portugal made the breakthrough just before the half-hour mark.
The hosts had struggled to hit the target from distance but Costa made no mistake when tucking the ball home from six yards.
Following the restart Ronaldo supplied Hugo Almeida with a pinpoint cross but the Besiktas striker could only head over.
Aouate stood firm again when Ronaldo connected his left boot with the ball to volley goalwards, and with the hour mark approaching Nani nodded high and wide.
Goalscorer Costa repeated the trick before Nani went even closer from a Joao Moutinho corner.
Time was running out for Portugal to grab the second goal they needed to kill the game off and Nelson Oliveira's speculative lob from 20 yards was not the answer.
The focus returned to assaulting Aouate's goal head on but the Israeli keeper was still having none of it. First he parried Antunes' snapshot from before punching a swerver from Moutinho away from danger.
Portugal's frustation grew and with the red mist descending they let their guard down at the worst possible time.
Patricio dithered on the edge of the box before passing the ball straight to Ben Basat, who gleefully fired it back in the keeper's direction but into the back of the net.
All eyes turned to the talismanic Ronaldo, who has so often dug his nation out of trouble when it matters most, but his searing free-kick from 20 yards was met by a superb low save from the unflinching Aouate.