Serbia's Euro 2012 hopes were ended in Maribor tonight as Slovenia took all three points to consign them to third place in Group C.
Knowing only a win would help them jump above Estonia - who had played all their fixtures - into second place and also into the play-offs, Serbia's dreams were dashed by Dare Vrsic's third goal for Slovenia on the stroke of half-time.
They did have a second-half lifeline when awarded a penalty, but Nemanja Vidic failed to score from the spot.
The Manchester United captain was a surprise starter having made just one appearance for the English champions this season because of a calf injury, and he was even more of an interesting choice to step forward and take the spot kick.
His miss would prove costly too, although the damage to Serbia's campaign was done by a 3-1 defeat at home to Estonia last year.
After a messy start, with Slovenia happy to sit in possession as Serbia scampered after the ball, the home side fashioned the first chance when Andraz Kirm's hit was blocked clear by Dejan Stankovic.
Serbia then managed to get some of the ball and quickly set about using it, Dragan Mrdja going close and Radoslav Petrovic fizzing an 18-yarder over the bar.
Slovenia remained a threat, though, and Vrsic flashed wide while Andraz Kirm forced Neven Subotic into another last-ditch block.
Serbia began to take aim from distance in a bid to make things happen, Zoran Tosic the first to do so, before Slovenia took the lead with an extraordinary goal.
Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov brought down Zlatan Ljubijankic wide on the right and, after the latter touched the free-kick into play, Vrsic swung a cross-cum-shot into the box from close to the line, fooling everyone as it sailed in unopposed.
Vladimir Petrovic would no doubt have attempted to stir his Serbia players during the interval, but it was not evident at the start of the second half and Slovenia continued to impress.
Kram's drive was blocked by Kolarov and Tim Matavz hit wide as a clinching second goal began to look ominous.
Serbia had the perfect chance to stem the tide, though, only to fail to take it.
Marko Suler brought down Kolarov in the area with 63 minutes gone and, when referee Frank De Bleeckere pointed to the spot, Vidic was the unlikely man to step forward and place the ball.
With just two international goals to his name from 56 appearances before tonight - not one of them since 2006 either - it was more of a leader's decision than a goalscoring one, and so it proved as Samir Handanovic got down to field his effort.
It was difficult not to think Vidic had thrown away Serbia's lifeline, especially as they reverted to shooting from far out through a frustrated Tosic.
Even a rare handling error from Handanovic could not open the door for Serbia, with no one on hand to cash in after Mrdja's shot came free.
Vidic tried to level through a more conventional route - his head - but was as equally wayward, and Serbia were unable to make any more inroads.