Israel squandered the chance to move to within a point of second-placed Russia as they had to come from a goal down to force a draw with Azerbaijan in their World Cup qualifying match in Ramat Gan.
With victory, the hosts could have put real pressure on Fabio Capello's Russia ahead of the side's Group F meeting on Tuesday in St Petersburg.
However, they were shocked when Rahid Amirquliev put Azerbaijan ahead in the
61st minute and although Itay Shechter levelled 12 minutes later, they could not
find the winner and are now outsiders to force their way into the top two.
Israel started the match four points behind Russia and they came within inches
of taking the lead in the 18th minute when Eitan Tibi connected with Hen Ezra's
inswinging corner from the left only for his volley to hit the post.
Kamran Agayev was forced to punch Ezra's corner clear before parrying Natcho's
drilled 25-yard shot as half-time arrived goalless.
Eran Zahavi's shot from the right forced Agayev to parry and with such pressure
a goal was inevitable.
However, it was Azerbaijan who took a shock lead when Amirquliev drilled into
the top right-hand corner of the goal from 25 yards.
Israel almost responded immediately: Elyaniv Barda's header came back off the
post before his follow-up goalbound shot brought the best out of Agayev.
However, they did force the equaliser in the 73rd minute when Ofir Davidadze's
pass from the right found Shechter in the centre of the penalty area and his
mis-hit shot went into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.