Italy left it late but beat Slovenia 1-0 to qualify for the Euro 2012 finals, while Northern Ireland suffered a heavy defeat in Estonia.
Second-half substitute Giampaolo Pazzini struck five minutes from time to hand the Azzurri all three points in Florence.
The Italians have now won seven of their eight qualifying matches and clinched their place in next year's finals with two matches to spare.
They are eight points clear of nearest rivals Serbia, who were forced to work hard in defeating the Faroe Islands 3-1 in Belgrade.
The hosts appeared to be cruising after 23 minutes thanks to goals from Milan Jovanovic and Zoran Tosic, but the Faroes stunned their more illustrious hosts with a Frodi Benjaminsen strike eight minutes before the break.
That was as good as it got for the visitors, however, with Serbia doing all the pushing in the second half, their reward finally coming 21 minutes from time when Zdravko Kuzmanovic found the net.
The victory leaves Serbia in second place in the group, one point ahead of Estonia, who have played a game more.
In the group's other game, Northern Ireland's faint hopes qualification were reduced to tatters in Tallinn as a series of individual mistakes left them on the wrong end of a humbling 4-1 defeat by Estonia.