Northern Ireland face an uphill struggle to reach a first World Cup since 1986 after losing to Switzerland in controversial circumstances in the first leg of their play-off at Windsor Park.
Ricardo Rodriguez scored with a penalty just before the hour mark after Corry Evans was deemed to have handled inside the area.
Though that decision was harsh as the ball clearly struck the defender’s shoulder, the visitors were dominant throughout and might have won by a greater margin had they converted a series of other chances.
They are now strong favourites to reach a fourth consecutive World Cup when the two sides meet again in the second leg in Basel on Sunday.
The result was a disappointment for Northern Ireland, who followed an impressive qualifying campaign with a below-par performance in their first major finals play-off.
Michael O’Neill’s side had finished second in Group C behind Germany. Six wins from their 10 matches was more than they had mustered in any previous World Cup qualifying campaign.
Switzerland led Group B throughout, having won nine fixtures in a row, but lost their last game 2-0 to Portugal to miss out on automatic qualification on goal difference.