Italy held Serbia to a draw in Belgrade to remain unbeaten in qualifying and dent their rival's hopes of playing at Euro 2012.
Needing a win to earn a spot in the play-offs, the hosts got off to the worst possible start as Claudio Marchisio put Italy ahead after 56 seconds.
Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic equalised in the 26th minute Serbia had several chances to go in front, but were denied by good saves from Gianluigi Buffon.
The result at the Crvena Zvezda Stadium, coupled with Estonia's 2-1 win over Northern Ireland in the other Group C game, dropped Serbia to third, one point behind Estonia who have played all their games.
Serbia must now win their final qualifier at Slovenia on October 11 to reach the play-offs.
Unlike the first meeting between the two sides a year ago which was abandoned after six minutes because of rioting by Serbia fans - chaos that led to Italy being awarded a 3-0 triumph by UEFA - tonight's game had no such problems.
The pressure was off Italy as they had already sealed a first place and a spot in Euro 2012.
Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli had nevertheless spoken of the need for the team to keep the winning momentum going.
In the opening seconds, Buffon was forced to fully stretch to save Aleksandar Kolarov's 30-yard effort towards the far post.
The visitors responded 30 seconds later and took the lead.
Giuseppe Rossi fed Marchisio inside the area and his right-footed strike from 12 yards beat Serbia goalkeeper Bojan Jorgacevic.
Rossi should have doubled his team's lead shortly after, but fired straight at the keeper from close range.
Serbia pressed forward more aggressively and almost drew level in the ninth minute.
Milos Krasic's right-footed volley from the edge of the area went wide.
Serbia's efforts paid off in the 25th minute.
Zoran Tosic sent the ball into the area where Ivanovic controlled with his back to goal, turned and fired into the back of the net.
The goal inspired the hosts, who could have gone ahead before the break.
Krasic got past his marker and surged inside the area but fired a weak effort that was cleared by a defender.
Serbia picked up where they left off after the restart and almost went ahead early in the second half.
Kolarov's powerful free-kick towards the near post was kept out by Buffon.
Buffon was called again to make a vital save in the 53rd minute to keep out Kolarov's diagonal effort.
Shortly after the hour mark, Antonio Cassano's left-footed strike from the edge of the area was parried away by Jorgacevic.
At the other end, Marko Pantelic got his head on Ivanovic's cross but his effort went over the bar.
Serbia desperately searched for the winner but to no avail and had to settle for a point.