Paraguay may have already qualified for the World Cup but they showed no mercy to Venezuela to move level on points with Brazil at the top of the South American qualifying table.
Second-half goals from Salvador Cabanas and Oscar Cardozo put the Guaranies in command before Salomon Rondon halved the deficit for Venezuela, for whom Nicolas
Fedor missed a penalty. Their hopes of being in South Africa next summer are now all but over.
Cabanas threatened first for the visitors - who booked their World Cup place
with a 1-0 win over Argentina last month - but his seventh-minute effort went
Paraguay went close again in the 24th minute with Cabanas once more involved.
This time he set put Nelson Haedo Valdez, whose shot went just wide of the left
Cabanas was continuing to be a key influence on the game and 11 minutes into
the second half he put the away side in front, finding the net with his left
shot having been set up by Osvaldo Martinez.
Cardozo made it two 11 minutes from time, rounding off a counter-attack after some fine individual skill from Edgar Benitez. Benitez beat two men before feeding the ball to Cardozo, whose shot was not the best but still proved strong enough to beat the keeper.
Venezuela could have got back in the contest four minutes later, but Justo
Villar saved Fedor's penalty. Rondon did net for the Vinotinto two minutes later and they pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but one was not forthcoming as Paraguay joined Brazil on 33 points.
The Selecao will move clear at the top of the standings if they win away to
Bolivia on Sunday.
Venezuela can still in theory clinch a play-off spot, but are relying on a
highly unlikely combination of results to do so. They must beat Brazil by a wide
margin in midweek and hope several other results go their way.